About 90 percent of her workday at Nissan Design America, located in sunny Southern California, is all about making color decisions for Nissan’s future cars.
“I spend my days looking for color inspiration wherever I can,” said Fonseca, an expert at automotive color trends. “I’m taking it all in like a sponge, from the internet to visiting car dealers. And then I experiment with the color that has come together in my head, mixing paint in the studio or on the computer.”
Orange, Fonseca readily admits, happens to be her favorite color. Pair this inclination with the deep historical ties that the color has to Nissan’s most iconic models, and the reasons for using orange as a showcase color comes into focus. Nissan has draped its most iconic and best-selling vehicles in tones of orange for the past 50 years, from the 1970 Datsun 240Z to the all-new 2021 Rogue. Currently nine of Nissan’s most popular vehicles are available in brilliant shades of orange, which is more than any other automaker in the United States.
While an orange-colored exterior might not be the highest volume paint option, people who choose it are cut from their own cloth, Fonseca says.
“Orange is for a very specific customer,” she said. “They’re bold, confident and secure… and those are the same words we use when we’re developing the different hues of orange at the design center.”
The latest implementations of orange in the lineup is credited largely to Fonseca and her team. She created the color named Sunset Drift, found on the current Nissan Altima, Maxima, Murano and LEAF vehicles.
“Orange evokes a feeling that no other color does, and I love to incorporate it into our designs,” said Fonseca. “Your car is an extension of who you are, and color is a big part of that. It’s the same as picking the colors for your nails, makeup or home – you do so to make a statement and show your personality.”
Boldness is what Nissan was looking for while developing the latest generation Altima and its sport-oriented SR trim level.
“We were seeking a color that spoke to a vision of ‘sport’ and would be noticed by customers,” Fonseca says. “We knew orange was iconic to the brand especially with our sports cars. We built on that popularity and, with advances available to us now in the paint process, have created show-stopping orange hues that are more than interior accents. These are colors that set Nissan apart and are attracting new customers to our brand.”
Fonseca and team look back to icons like the original Z for inspiration, and also to important vehicles that recently debuted in orange, as well.
Fonseca says most orange-hued models are created using a special multidimensional process that results in a vibrancy that leaves a big impression on customers.
“To make orange look good on a car, the color has to be really saturated,” Fonseca explains. “We use a different paint pigment for these colors called ChromaFlair®.”
ChromaFlair® makes the paint appear as different colors depending on the light source and view angle. Despite the more involved paint process, orange is still available on the most affordable vehicles in Nissan’s lineup, including Versa, Sentra and Kicks.
Designing a color for a new car is a long process and involves more than digital renderings. Part of the process involves spraying full vehicles, so designers can get a better understanding of scale and shape. The full-size mock-ups are painted down the center so they can review two different colors simultaneously.
“We need to evaluate them in real life,” Fonseca says. “Orange is very challenging to get just right. It can’t be too yellow or too red. It has to have the perfect balance.”
The color orange, with roots reaching back to the early days of Nissan sports cars, is not likely to reach its sunset anytime soon. With Nissan launching 10 new products over the span of 20 months, Fonseca and her team of color designers will tell you that, “new hues and a bright future” are what they are dreaming up for Nissan.