Automakers get yummy ideas for car color names

From cappuccino to French silk, the growing popularity of television cooking shows is starting to influence the names chosen to describe the colors of cars.

Ford Motor F says it is naming more car colors after food or wine — from a crème brulee to describe the yellowish hue of its new crossover models to dark cherry on a special edition of the Ford Explorer.

The automaker also has hired celebrity chief Rocco DiSpirito as a pitchman.

"We seem to be a society that is absolutely enamored with food right now," says J Mays, Ford's global design chief. "If I tell you the color is lime green, you not only get the idea of what it looks like, but I've got your taste buds working as well."

DuPont, largest supplier of automotive paint, themed last year's presentation of new colors to the industry around food, with all its new colors named after foods. Orange became mango, green was celebrated as iced daiquiri and red was called gazpacho.

It isn't just cars. Margaret Walch, director of the Color Association of the United States, says interest in food is showing up in color names for household interiors. "People are very focused on food," she says.

But car colors are especially important to the auto industry because they figure in buying decisions 91% of the time, DuPont found in a survey nine years ago.

Food analogies mark a departure from the auto industry norm of naming colors after places, such as Hyundai's Venetian blue, or geography, such as Toyota's desert sand mica.

Ford's color experts aren't the only ones picking up on the theme. General Motors GM has black licorice, cappuccino frost metallic and salsa red metallic. DaimlerChrysler DCX has cool vanilla.

Honda's new Element small SUV comes in a brown metallic called root beer. "We wanted something fun," says John Watts, Honda's manager of product planning.

Ford is sinking its fork deepest, however. Eight food- and wine-themed names are among the 20 or so color names this year, and more are on the way.

Some colors just seemed to name themselves. Recalling the discussion on what to call a ruby red, Susan Lampinen, Ford's top color designer, says it was a case of: "Oh my gosh, that looks like merlot!"

Lampinen doesn't see a risk in alienating male buyers with names like French silk. "Guys like to eat," she says. But just in case, Ford sometimes changes names for the same color, depending on the vehicle is used on. Egg yolk on the Focus subcompact became zinc yellow on everything else.

Food isn't the only trend in car colors. Others:

• Silver has remained the USA's favorite vehicle color for six years, DuPont says, although it's starting to weaken as color-infused grays and blues are on the rise. Chrysler Group spokesman Sam Locricchio says buyers like silver because it's the color of technology, from computers to cellphones.

• Colors are meant to fit the vehicle. GM has marketed the Hummer in grenade green and desert sand in a play on its military roots. Black is the most popular in the first year that a new model makes its debut, says Chris Webb, GM's exterior color trend designer.

• Paints that shift hue when viewed from different angles are becoming more popular, says Karen Surcina, color marketing manager for DuPont.