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Black Is Back. And It Looks Chic On An SUV

The classic shade is the automotive vogue and its roster of cars is expanding again

Colours are unavoidably evocative. The colour of what you wear is taken to represent how you wish to express yourself and also how the world sees you. This applies to the colour of your car as well, albeit a more long-term choice than your current outfit. Choosing black is immediately seen as a personality statement, as it is statistically among the least popular car colours in the world. The low demand meant that brands stopped offering it on some of their mass market models, sticking with the usual selection of white, silver, grey and red for the hatchbacks. It stands out and makes people take notice. It’s the original car colour and like all things classic, it’s making a comeback. 

Black can represent a wide variety of sentiments. Most commonly, it is associated with power, status and elegance. That’s why most official vehicles of world leaders are also black. On top of that, it just looks really cool on pretty much any car.

The demand for black or blacked out vehicles cannot be ignored considering it is one the most popular forms of personalising a vehicle. While a fully blacked out specification is rare for any manufacturer, some do not even offer the choice of a black exterior paint. The difference between the two is in the details. A black car can still have silver or chrome elements, predominantly silver alloy wheels, and maybe even a light coloured interior. However, a blacked out vehicle, sometimes called a ‘nuke spec’, will replace all chrome and silver with black elements and get an all black interior too. This kind of custom specification is popular among luxury car buyers as well.

People love SUVs in black

After going through the current model portfolio of every mass market brand in India, it seems that most of the cars available with a black exterior from the factory are SUVs and executive sedans. These days there is no hard and fast rule for what is an SUV and that’s why there are so many of them across sizes and price brackets. The main appeal of an SUV is its larger proportions and a higher seating position that offer increased road presence and a sense of distinguished authority. By having an SUV in black, those aspects are further enhanced. Some models also include red highlights for a sportier look.

That’s why SUV-centric brands like Mahindra and Tata have been offering their models with the black exterior option and they have been quite popular. Newer brands that have entered India with SUV-centric lineups have also offered their models with the choice of a black paint job. 

Tata caters to those who like their cars blacked out

Tata seems to have recognised the demand for blacked out SUVs and premium vehicles and decided to offer it themselves. Who better to do the job than the guys who made the car to begin with? So, they introduced the ‘Dark’ moniker. It was introduced on the Harrier and is now available with the Nexon, Altroz and Safari. 

These Dark edition models have been fairly successful for Tata. Rajan Amba, VP Sales, Marketing and Customer Care at Tata Motors, commented on the topic, saying: 

The Dark edition trims get all-black alloy wheels, a blacked out cabin, black bezels in place of chrome details and more. This treatment is usually reserved for the better equipped variants so that the feature list complements the premium appearance of a Dark edition model. This specialised cosmetic package also attracts a premium over the regular model, usually around Rs 30,000. The Altroz is the only premium hatchback in India available in all black directly from the carmaker.

Other brands are trying the blacked out treatment as well

It seems Tata’s success with the Dark variant has caught the eye of other automotive brands too. The product concept seems straightforward –  take a high-spec variant, replace all silver and chrome surfaces on the exterior and inside the cabin with black elements, and offer it as a standalone variant. One such example is the recently introduced Hyundai Creta Knight edition. Over the standard Creta that is available in black, it adds a black finish to the grille, C-pillar, skid plates and alloy wheels.

Other brands take it a step further by offering a different kind of exterior finish, like the Kia Seltos X Line, which has a matte paint. However, it doesn’t quite qualify as a blacked out model as the wheels are still predominantly silver, even though they do get the matte treatment.

Not all carmakers want to offer black

While a black paint option may not be offered on all models, most brands offer it with at least one, usually a premium offering. However, some do not offer a black exterior finish for any models and instead settle for a dark grey shade. This includes the likes of Maruti, Honda, Renault and Citroen. 

“In our research, we saw that 80% customers don’t want black in this segment, which is why we have offered two grey shades instead,” stated Saurabh Vatsa, Brand Head at Citroen India. The French marque has introduced its first mass market car in India in the form of the C3. It is offering the C3 in colourful and vibrant dual tone shades such as orange and white, while the C5 Aircross gets more mature choices of silver and grey, but both the car miss out on a true black shade. 

Citroen’s findings line up with the data shared by Tata. While one carmaker saw the chance to attract an extra percentage of buyers, the other decided to cater to the majority instead. 

Some have even speculated that some carmakers choose to not offer models in black as their target buyers may associate the colour more strongly with its negative emotions than the positive ones.

Are there downsides to buying a car in black?

Yes, there are a few. The two prominent issues that come with a blacked out vehicle are high maintenance and hotter cabin temperatures. Any kind of dust or dirt is immediately noticeable against a black exterior and therefore requires regular cleaning than a dark grey or a silver coloured car. Additionally, scratches and swirl marks to the bodywork stand out on black paint, affecting the overall look of the car. Therefore, black cars require more maintenance to keep them looking their best.

Then we have the issue of hotter cabins in a black car. It is a scientific fact that black coloured materials absorb and retain more heat than lighter shades, and the same applies to black cars. The surface and cabin temperatures of a black car exposed to sunlight and heat is a few degrees higher than a white car of the same make. Additionally, black interiors are also culprits in raising the cabin temperature when the car is parked out in the sun. In a country like India with very hot summers, this particular drawback is more noticeable.

Will black cars ever stop being fashionable?

While the dark shade may not always be in vogue, it is one of the most timeless colours out there. A black luxury car is like a black suit, always fashionable even if it’s not the most hip. With mass market models, the elegance of black may get watered down by the chrome and silver depending on the design. However, the current market trends show that people are looking to get their new cars with modern designs in black, especially with well-equipped variants.

While most of the demand is for SUVs, we would love to see the likes of the Hyundai i20, Skoda Slavia, Volkswagen Virtus, and Maruti Suzuki Baleno offered in black as well. On top of that, there comes a sense of rarity with a black or blacked out model, like a black sheep standing out in a herd of white, silver and grey. By offering more models in black, we hope carmakers will allow the black sheeps of the world to express themselves with their cars too.

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