Watching the (Grey) World Pass By

Armed with only a bun for sustenance, Andrew Miles indulges in a spot of colour watching. His observations are below.

(c) Switch my business

The supermarket can be an eminently dissonant place. A necessary evil; something of an endurance. But all is not lost, for as our usual café haunt was closed for refurbishment and as we had to visit the supermarket, we decided to invest in their facilities before commencing the weekly event of overfilling a metal trolley.

Luckily, this branch of J. Sainsbury’s is placed on stilts, so one parks underneath and the travellator moves you upwards bypassing the café which swiftly became my haven and inspiration for this little observation. 

Built on the corner of a very busy junction controlled by traffic lights, it afforded me an indulgence that happily entertained me for the twenty minutes or so it took to consume a nice cuppa along with a Belgian bun, freshly baked in store. Whilst my wife was furiously texting several friends over their previous night’s pre-festive shenanigans, I began taking mental notes as to what was occurring outside. 

This being an overcast Saturday just before Christmas, traffic was heavy and in those twenty minutes hundreds if not more vehicles, mainly cars, passed by. In general, the mainstay body style was that of the hatchback, very swiftly followed by the dreaded SUV brigade. Saloons and estate cars were very thin on the ground, literally a handful.

Any vans that passed by were white or plastered in so many decals that from thirty feet up it was difficult to ascertain what they might possibly be moving or who for. Very few HGV’s trundled past though one that did was so heavily travel stained it could’ve been hauling anything from bread to Amazon items to pig muck: the trailer that no doubt began the journey white was most definitely off-white now.

Talking colours, or perhaps more correctly, hues; for greys were in the predominant and in many different shades. When one sequence of lights held a long line of cars, after a quick slurp of tea I quickly counted that amongst the twenty three cars I could easily see, eighteen were grey, the others black. Not a single other colour existed. How dour. Manufacturers swoon over their latest baby looking ‘great in galactic grey’ though in a lineup like this, dull, dull, dull.

Whites became specks of dandruff, liberally scattered amongst the throng, an early Corolla being  a highlight whereas the modern stuff looked like dirty, four wheeled white goods.

As my delicious bun was steadily consumed, other colours began to appear but not in great numbers; the great grey tarpaulin enveloped almost all. What looked either brand new or more likely fresh from the hand car wash round the corner (£6 cars, £9 SUV) a racing blue XF stood out in particular. A smattering of other blue shades were mentally noted with a leaning towards that of a sky blue. 

As to a more voiture rouge, again pretty few and far between. A rare beast indeed was a clean and new shaped Mondeo estate in maroon and in a hurry. At one point a very early shaped red Audi A4 played the traffic light amber gambler but you could tell the colour was faded even up here. Mind you the vehicle in question must have been twenty plus years old; the Sheffield sun has been strong, lately…

Two orange cars both burbled away and both were Focus ST’s to no-one’s surprise. Green, well, an apple green Corsa and the marginally paler Mii though any shade darker could’ve easily merged into black at this distance. Or again, heavily travel stained. Yellow cars? None.

Silver was more rare than expected. A Škoda Superb (new shape ) was in front of a very large and black menacing machine, that of the new BMW 7 series with its huge cow-catcher grill. Probably driven by a consultant on his way to the golf course, or, hunting for roadkill. Up here it looked beastly. Back to silver and Golf’s, a Passat or two, mainly nondescript Eurasian boxes.

Time passed, the bun now in pieces and a couple of cars caught my eye not because of their singular colour but that they had two. A Renault Kadjar was bodied in orange but its roof was white. It looked quite pleasing in this otherwise grey soup. Shortly after, a Toyota C-HR had a black roof over a pillar box red body. Again, pretty stand out.

But the ‘prize winner’ had to be given to the Jeep Renegade in what I would describe as teal blue but subsequently revealed to be Bikini Blue with a black roof and bonnet stripe. Quite unusual and I offered a mental round of applause for their choice. Until a lime green version of the same Jeep hooned past just as the cherry from the bun was polished off in no uncertain manner. I almost gasped.

And with that, my (mainly grey) car colour watch was over. And my better half had not looked up once to witness any of this. Is texting more interesting than watching the world go by? Obviously..

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

18 thoughts on “Watching the (Grey) World Pass By”

  1. Morning Andrew
    Another great read so thanks for posting. Have you tried using Ocado yet? Saves one going to the Supermarket 😉

  2. Angel makes a good point – white seems to be a popular choice in Dubai, and there was a real fad for white on newly registered cars when I was travelling regularly to the rather warm north eastern Brazil in the mid 2010s. At least as ubiquitous as grey is in these islands at the moment…

  3. Good morning Andrew, and thank you for sharing your well observed musings. I think that drivers’ preference for “greyscale” and antipathy towards “proper” colours is a real shame. This phenomenon is sometimes explained by citing buyers’ concern for resale values, but given that so many cars are bought on PCP contracts, then traded in for their “guaranteed future value”rather than sold privately, surely that can’t be the real reason? It’s more likely to be simple herd mentality. White, which has again become popular in the past few years, is just another greyscale colour and is often chosen simply because it is a “no cost” option.

    Some cars that look so dull and anonymous in grey really come alive in colour. The metallic red that Mazda often uses on launch and road test press cars is a terrific colour that shows contours and surfacing to great effect.

    Returning to cost and PCP deals, its pretty outrageous how manufacturers charge a substantial premium even for non-metallic colours, often offering just one or two “no-cost” options. Do PCP contracts all amortise the extra cost of “non-standard” colours fully over the term of the contract, so the GFV is no higher than for a car with a “no-cost” colour? (Having not purchased a car for anything other than cash for many years, I’ve no idea.)

    Owning a bright red Boxster and orange Mini, my partner and I are doing our bit to brighten up the motoring landscape!

    1. The GFV is (amongst other things) depending on your choice of colour so that the monthly payment of a metallic grey car can be significantly lower than for a bright red one. In Gernany white cars are write-offs at the end of a PCP (their GFV is zero because nobody buys a white car) with according high monthly payments which creates a kind of self amplifying short circuit.

  4. I’ve noticed the VW group have been turning out battle ship grey cars for several years. My neighbour has a Passat estate that colour. Solid colour too, no metallic sparkle to ease the eyes. Looks like undercoat to me. I deliberately ordered my Smart For Four in Cadmium red.
    I get told off for looking at cars when I’m out with Mrs S so you did well Andrew, you got away with it for 20 mins 😱

    1. When a marketing man somewhere decided it was sexy… (a woman would have had more taste).

      And then blindly, like sheep, the public followed. It’s fashion innit?

      (Cynical, me?)

  5. The previous company I worked for had a guide for managers that clearly stated: “company cars in vibrant colours are not allowed!” You could order any kind of brand and trim level through the fleet manager, but only in white, grey, black – and if you were lucky some oil green or darker shade of red was available. And since new car sales in Europe go mainly through these fleets I assume manufacturers try to match their needs as in the days of the financial crisis they relied on them as a last resort of income. It was somewhat of a relief though that as private buyers returned to the new car market Audi and Merc started offering entry level cars around 2014 (A3, C-Class) in plain red by default – but according to the current list prices they are back to white/black again. Peugeot ships the new 208 in yellow without extra fee though. Not sure if sales by colour could be used as an economic indicator…

  6. here in Australia, where widespread bushfires have finally
    brought home the realities of global warming – perhaps even
    to our PM – white is, or should be, the only mindful choice of
    colour. sadly for me, having always wanted an orange car.
    red Mazdas are common enough, indeed black is still coveted
    by morbid folk, but far too much to be seen of grey and silver.
    the 70s, when even Holdens could be had in yellow, orange, red,
    pink and lime green, are but a fond memory.

  7. Non-metallic grey is not normally an attractive colour for a car, but Audi offered “Aviator Grey” on both the Mk1 and Mk2 TT, which I thought looked rather good, especially on the former model:

    It wasn’t a popular choice, however: I tried to find a secondhand 225 Quattro convertible in that colour, but had to settle for a ubiquitous metallic silver example instead.

  8. I chose brown for my new Mazda6 this year, apparently officially called Titanium Flash Mica. Red, white, silver, grey dark or light, black and blue — so common! And the “find on this page” function says that this is the first mention of brown. I chose it because the standard alloy wheel colour works so well with it. Of course, the contrast with snow tires mounted on bright silver steel wheels, official cheapy rims for the 6, is a bit jarring. The regular black stealth steel rims popular for over three decades are no longer available, so somebody is fiddling with the spare parts colour somewhere along the line!

  9. By coincidence, my area manager remarked today that he has ordered his new X2 in orange – which he says will be very easy to find in the HQ car park, which follows the trends described in the article.

    Could some of the defaulting towards certain colours come from low availability of demonstrators in the colours that are anticipated to be less popular? It might look great in the brochure (or on screen) but the punter won’t want to be stuck with something that translates as hideous when painted to a vehicle.

    The Fiat 500, Citroen Cactus and various Fords must be credited with the continued existence of yellow paint outside of “sporty” models.

  10. The reverse is also true: yesterday I saw a navy blue Fiat 500 and it stopped me in my tracks because I’am so used to the usual bright colours we see it in (on top of the seemingly popular white ones). It was a beautiful dark blue that actually suited the car I thought and gave it a classy feel, usually navy blue is a difficult colour on small car.

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