Two-Tone Paint Jobs are a Thing Again

The last time two-tone cars were this popular, the Soviet Union was still planning the launch of the Sputnik satellite. In only the past few years, over 20 production cars have been paraded on showrooms and automotive events around the world, sporting contrasting body and roof colors characteristic of the two-tone theme. Currently, the look can be commonly found in SUVs, crossovers, and hatchbacks, but the bug is spreading to sedans as well. Citing an example, the 2018 Toyota Camry has the option available.

"The demand is much higher than we thought," said Matthew Harrison, vice president of sales and marketing for Toyota Motors Europe. "One of our headaches is keeping up with the bitone trend. We're having to constantly argue with manufacturing to raise the production capacity levels."

Car makers guilty of pushing the dual-colored models to the market explain that they only want to give customers more options for their money. Naturally, though, the additional color increases the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of the vehicles in question because of the higher manufacturing costs involved. As for the car’s designers, they say it allows them to use color as an element of style and incorporate some variety to thick pillars and higher beltlines, which are fast becoming mandated safety regulations around the world.

"Designers are cooking with the ingredients they have," said J Mays, retired head of design at Ford who oversaw the Ford Flex, which has a contrasting roof option. "You can get a lot of bang for the buck out of two-tone paint."

"It's incredible how people react to the bitone colors," said Citroen’s Head of Design Alexandre Malval. "If you give them two colors to assemble, immediately the car has different personalities. Red with a white roof is a little bit sporty; cream with a black roof is a little more solid and tough. One in pastel with a white roof could be a little more feminine."

Like the car makers said, it’s all about customer choice, and as long as customers are willing to pay the extra, then automakers won’t hesitate to offer it. Then again, the less unique they become, the more they will likely be ignored.

"Ubiquity usually relegates everything to the trash bin," Mays said. "The companies that have this as part of their brand DNA like Mini or Land Rover, it won't go out of style."

However, Mays was quick to add: "It's going to be one of those things you look back on in 10 years' time and say, 'Oh yeah, that was from that era right around 2016-2017 when everybody seemed to be doing two-tone.'"

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