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Red represents performance

Red is a popular colour for sporty models, and Colour & Trim Designer Mareike Hackbarth explains why red paintwork is such a good fit for Volkswagen models with power and performance

Mareike Hackbarth is delighted as she enters the studio. "I finally get to see the finished version of the car," she says with a radiant smile as she walks around the ID.4 GTX01. She strokes the shiny red paintwork. "How beautiful. The GTX looks really great as a full package." The designer spent three years working on the car, and this is the first time she has seen the new member of the ID. family in real life. She comes from the world of colours and paintwork. In Volkswagen Design Color & Trim, as part of the MEB team she is responsible for the exterior colours of the all-electric ID. family, where she works on colour concepts, researching trends and futurology.

Hackbarth has brought various work materials with her to the interview and unpacks them: painted sample metal panels, replica models, colour cards, bottles of colour - boxes of red. After all, that is what today is all about. The colour that attracts the most attention and triggers the most emotions. And that has a long, very athletic tradition at Volkswagen: the colour red.

The list of shades of red at Volkswagen is long. The first shade of red was Coral Red in 1956, and more followed - usually with enticing names such as Bahia Red, Flash Red, Mars Red, Tornado Red or Salsa Red, and now Kings Red … Why has red been part of the range for so long?

When buying a car, after manufacturer and model, the colour is generally the most important deciding factor. The colour red is very expressive. Red is in motion and very dynamic. So, red exterior paintwork has long been integral to the Volkswagen colour range; there are well over 50 shades of red as it stands. Also very popular as a colour for fleets, red will continue to play an important role at Volkswagen - in its various shades.

When Mars Red was launched in 1976, it was the first time that a shade of red was launched at the same time as a new sporty model. In addition to Diamond Silver, Mars Red was the colour of the very first Golf GTI. A real "dream team" - and perhaps even something of a pioneer?

Absolutely. The GTI and the colour red belonged together from the word go. Sporty models have always been characterised by the connection "powerful and red". The colour has a strong symbolism: red is blood, red is fire. The colour triggers feelings of activity, energy and a zest for life in us. This makes red the perfect brand colour to use for performance models: You associate it with driving pleasure and it attracts a lot of attention.

Tornado Red followed in 1986 - the colour for high-performance cars for decades. Countless top models of their time had the power paintwork, for example, Golf II GTI 16V, Corrado G60, Golf III VR6, Golf R32 or Golf GTI TCR. Why was that red such a good fit?

Tornado Red is a very dominant, positive and loud colour, which can be seen from afar. The complete opposite of a soft blue or innocent white. Tornado Red is a successful, timeless plain shade that is a really good fit for our sporty models - incidentally, this is the shade we used to develop our new performance highlight colour Kings Red Metallic.

Since the first GTI, red elements have remained sporty hallmarks. Is it fair to say that red is a common theme in the design of Volkswagen's high-performance models?

Red is power. That's what we want our performance models to get across at first sight - including the details. Which is why we use red as an accent colour, which is continued in the stitching or the standard diamond pattern, for example. A common theme, in many ways, which has now established itself as a hallmark of sportiness and power, yes.

… and that is carried on in the ID.4 GTX01?

Definitely. We deliberately picked up on this common theme for the ID.4 GTX and reinterpreted it. The new electric mobility needs an innovative design. But the image transfer of Volkswagen performance models was also important for the GTX. We developed the new GTX world with the motto "Electric Vibrant Power": very dynamic, pithy and powerful. A strong red combined with the colour black, distinctive, sporty features with dark blue and red interior highlights, such as the red double contrasting seam that runs through the cockpit.

What is important for a colour that characterises a new sporty top model?

Red is something that our customers associate with sportiness, we used this familiar aesthetic as a basis. The home of the GTX01 is the world of performance - and that is what we wanted to show with Kings Red Metallic. We wanted to create a symbol of a new performance product line in the electric age. After all, it's not all about reason when it comes to climate-friendly electric cars; emotions, driving pleasure and acceleration are also involved. Red represents these attributes. So we developed Kings Red Metallic specifically for the GTI02 and the GTX.


What makes Kings Red Metallic special?

In the past, red symbolised prosperity, it was an expensive luxury colour. We wanted to upgrade the new models with a "royal" premium red, and worked hard to create a brilliant colour with deep saturation and strong luminosity. The double-layer base coat contains the coloured pigment and a red coated aluminium pigment, which gives the colour its extraordinary depth. The water-based paint system is also very environmentally friendly, ecologically sustainable and can be used in all production plants.


"Red is a diva. The fact that red widely represents passion is a perfect fit. What characterises our performance models better than - red?"


30 years ago, 50.4 percent of new passenger car registrations in Germany were for bright-coloured cars: With the number one choice being red with 25.2 percent of registrations. Since the turn of the millennium, the world of automobile colours has become more subtle. The proportion of bright colours decreased to just under 24 percent by 2020. The proportion of red cars was 6.7 percent in Germany and 5 percent internationally. Is red still an enduring colour? And what is the direction of the trend?

Red is one of the three primary colours and has countless shades. And in the same way that there are trend cycles, there are also colour cycles. The colour range in the automotive industry is evolving into a wider selection of colourful shades. In the coming years, coloured and customised paintwork will accentuate exterior designs more strongly. There is more diversity of colours in Europe; blue and red are increasing again among the bright colours. The current trend for red is bluish shades and we think that red will become trendier again in the future.

Red has different connotations depending on the culture: In Western cultures, red also represents love, courage, danger and warmth. In Eastern Europe it means beauty. Red is a symbol of joy among other things in China. As well as success, like in South America, for example. The greatest consensus around the world when it comes to red is that it is the colour of passion. Does the regional symbolism of a colour play a role?

Colours and combinations of colours trigger certain emotions in us humans. They make us curious, influence our state of mind and control our shopping patterns. Which is why we look at which shades are a good fit for the trend of a region, and what we can put on the cars there. Society, culture and economy are major factors; not all groups of colours are acceptable in all regions. For example, violet, gold and intense red are very popular in China at the moment, they are very expressive colours. It's different in European countries. In South America, car buyers try to express their individuality with more sporty cars and red is the most popular shade of colour there. Each country has specific colour preferences. Which is why we work closely with our international design centres.

"An emotional colour for a dynamic shape: Red symbolises strength and vitality. But every colour has a different weighting in the various regions. Which is why we follow the local trends very closely."

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