Racing Green: Why the Passat Color Had to Change Before it Could Be on the Atlas

Among the colors that Volkswagen sells for the Atlas, one of the newest ones is Racing Green. If the name rings a bell, it’s because it was used on the B5 Passat.

If you’re the type of VW fan who knows old color codes like pedants know commas—which is pretty likely if you’re reading this—then you’ll likely have noticed that the pictured Atlas doesn’t exactly look the same as a ’97 Passat.

And that’s because of a very complicated string of decisions that must be made for every car. And it all starts, as you’d expect, with an Ikea catalog.

Okay, not necessarily an Ikea catalog, but according to Jung Lim Park, VW’s Sr Color and Trim Designer, interior design does actually play a big role in what colors make it onto their cars.

“When consumers are willing to invest in a color by painting their living room walls green or buying a green couch, it is a good indication they will be willing to follow a similar trend in their next vehicle,” says Park.

The team also looks at clothing, cosmetics, and architecture to make sure their colors—aside from silver, black, and white—will resonate with car buyers.

You can’t just look at the Pantone color of the year and decide, though. Classic Blue is all well and good, but you need to have an idea of who is buying your car. It’s no good finding a color that will appeal Gen Z if you’re trying to sell a car to millennials.

For the Atlas, white is the most popular color, but customers are also willing to spin the color wheel. Blue and red each also make up 10% of sales. According to VW, though, for big SUVs like the Atlas, you don’t want colors that are too big since it could be considered overwhelming. That’s why Cornflower blue works on the GTI Rabbit edition, but might not work as well on the Atlas.

So, when Volkswagen was looking at adding a new color to the Atlas line, they were looking for a trending color that could be understated. No hot pinks or loud purples, then—no matter how much it may disappoint us.

That’s how they landed on green. The designers then looked at the back catalog and found the dark green based on British racing green that saw use on the B5 Passat. The color was front of mind because, according to VW, they wanted to bring it back as a call-back color for the 2020 Passat, though, it didn’t make the cut, evidently.

You may also see it on some Golf Rs because it was among the ten most popular colors chosen through the Spektrum program. Tastes change in 20 years, though, so VW made some changes to the color before putting it on the Atlas.

In a move that will no-doubt frustrate future B5 Passat owners, the new Racing Green has a different paint code and appearance than the original Racing Green. It’s darker and more metallic than the old color to meet modern tastes.

Racing Green was just one of the colors that the trim and color team chose, though. The work listed above is done for a number of colors that are then put forward in a recommendation, Wolfsburg puts together a central plan for the model’s color palette and develops and tests the colors to make sure they will work.

From there, the colors go to a “preselection workshop” to ensure that it works for all the different teams. People from marketing, purchasing, product planning, and more all meet to pick what colors will and what colors won’t make into production.

And although Racing Green was chosen because it looked good, there was apparently also a financial aspect to the decision. Since it had already been considered for the Atlas, the Chattanooga paint shop could quickly implement the color. And the green isn’t metallic like other metallic paint, which require two paint pipelines. This one requires just one, making painting quicker and cheaper.

Similar decision processes were undertaken for the other two new colors—Pyrit Silver Metallic and Aurora Red—which replace a silver and a red. The silver is a little lighter to reflect architecture and design trends, while the red is a little more understated to look more luxurious than the original red, which was intended to look sportier.

So there you have it. Volkswagen’s color and trim team isn’t just spinning a color wheel to pick new colors. There’s intention behind each one.

Passat by VauxfordOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link