The employee magazine
of the Volkswagen brand


How the Golf turned Turmeric

inside looked over Astrid Göring and Susanne Gerken’s shoulders as they worked.

Susanne Gerken (left) and Astrid Göring examine some color samples.

“This is the shade of yellow we have been waiting for!” Astrid Göring carefully slides a little bowl containing the spice turmeric to one side to make space for her mood board. The board contains lots of different shades of yellow. “We’ll take this to the paint supplier to explain exactly what the color should look like.” This is how the special color Turmeric was developed for the new Golf. Göring, a native of Hamburg with bright red hair, explains, “A yellow such as Turmeric would not have been possible 12 years ago because the world of pigments was not far enough advanced.” Her colleague in the Color & Trim team, Susanne Gerken, nods in agreement: “Now we finally have it.” The designers here work in teams dedicated to the individual models. They design the interior and exterior surfaces with paint and materials such as leather or fabric.

New colors usually crop up first in the fashion industry before spreading to furniture and later to vehicles. “Customers notice these changes too and move with the times,” says Gerken. The process of coming up with the right shade, from the initial idea to the finished paint, takes some two to three years. This means that the designers always need to stay one step ahead of the times.

Sometimes they even impress their own colleagues with a color. Göring caused a surprising stir with Turmeric. When developing a new shade, color designers begin by looking at the existing color palette. “It was missing a yellow. I wanted a warm, striking color. It needed to be bright. Then I saw the color on a test piece. It looks spicy, I thought, though not really curry-colored. I felt the name Turmeric fit the color well. But it wasn’t a color than anyone here in the team had expected. It took a little time to convince them.”

Colors for the world

Susanne Gerken and Astrid Göring design colors for every international market, with the exception of Brazil. Every country has its own preferences and constraints with regard to colors. For instance, a color might work well in the United States but won’t be used in Europe, where customers prefer other shades. Cultural ­differences also influence the color palette. Some colors can be seen as positive or negative for ­traditional, religious or social reasons. For this reason, the color designers in Wolfsburg always contact the countries in question to find out whether a color is popular, tolerated, banned or maybe even revered there. The color designers also have to consider that sunlight can have an effect on colors that varies from country to country. The same color may appear to shine differently depending on the region.

Not all paints are the same

The Volkswagen brand offers up to 80 paint options. And not all paints are the same. They come in solid color, metallic or with a mother-of-pearl effect, and include classics such as Tornado Red, Pure White or Oryx White, most expensive color in the range. Volkswagen designers annually create new colors. As well as Turmeric, the latest include Atlantic Blue and Bottle Green (the Jetta, right). White has been popular with customers for years. “We knew white would be a super trend, but were surprised to see it sticking around for so long, and even becoming a real replacement for silver,” says designer Susanne Gerken.

Of surfaces and colors

The staff in the Color & Trim Department use materials such as leather or fabric to design the surfaces given to them by the exterior and interior designers. They also develop color concepts for the body and wheel rims. In short, the team covers with materials and color every surface that you can see and touch both inside and outside the vehicle.

Layer by layer

Paint has to withstand some tough conditions, resisting rain, UV rays, heat, cold, and stones kicked up by tires. It also needs to look the same on sheet metal as it does on plastic. The paint shop is the second stage of the production process, right after the body shop. Volkswagen’s paint shop stretches over several kilometers. Robots apply the paint layer by layer. Only when the various layers have been applied in the right order under specified conditions does the paint achieve its special quality. All the layers together measure just a tenth of a millimeter – the width of a single human hair.

The color of the future

Shades of green – from bottle green to viper green – are the latest colors to look out for, say Gerken and Göring. “Green has never been an important color for Volkswagen, but this is changing. People have become more open, both at Volkswagen and in society. Colors don’t have as much of a stigma anymore,” predicts Gerken, who sees a rosy future for the color once mocked as hunter’s green.

More choices

These days, an increasing number of niche colors are appearing in the palette. More colors are now socially acceptable – such as, for example, a new shade of pink for a special American edition of the Beetle. Customers can decide how to customize their vehicle, such as with colored roofs, mirror caps or wheels. Social trends and even major sporting and media events can influence the range of colors. For example, the breakthrough of snow-white Apple devices “colored” a number of other products, and influenced ­architecture and lifestyle. The economic situation also has an influence, according to color designer Astrid Göring. “Customers become braver in hard times; they are eager for change and positivity and are more likely to buy brightly colored cars. When times are good, people tend to be more careful.”

Susanne Gerken and Astrid Göring interpret a few of the latest special colors for inside:

Tourmaline Blue Metallic LP5Y

Petrol is a dignified color! It always exudes intensity, power, and depth. Always an elegant look.

Crimson Red Metallic LD3Y

The darker the red, the more it denotes maturity. Red with a drop of black is associated with life force and a gentle sensuality.

Habanero Orange Metallic LB2Y

The color is a mix of light and warmth. It’s lively, promotes creative thinking, and conveys courage and hope.

Bottle Green Metallic LR5C

Green is positive. It represents hope! And it’s a neutral color between warm and cool, which stands for nature and growth.

Not every color fits

The up! and Beetle are suited to solid colors without any special effects. The Denim Blue shade enhances the design of the Beetle (photo). But this color would never be considered for Susanne Gerken’s full-size models. A light blue would swallow up the form of the Touareg. “It would look like a Lego brick on wheels,” smiles Gerken.

Each to their own

With its huge selection of materials and colors, Volkswagen is responding to the trend towards customization. Along with their homes and workplaces, people now see their car as a living space, an area known as the “third place.” And as with their home, customers want to design their cars their own way. Today, the color design no longer applies only to the body. For the up! (photo), for example, customers can select from a range of combinations and make their own choices about the color of the body, exterior mirrors, wheels, and roof.