Tesla is changing its no-cost paint option from black

Chris Davies - Jun 19, 2019, 2:29 pm CDT
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Tesla is changing its no-cost paint option from black

“Any color you like, as long as its black” didn’t quite apply to Tesla, but expect to see more white cars on the road as the automaker changes up its standard paint and starts charging for what once came free. For some time now, Tesla has offered a single paint option at no extra cost, and that’s been black: if you wanted another color from the palette, you had to pay.

Unexpectedly, that’s now changing. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the shake-up today on Twitter, revealing that as of next month, new orders would now pay $1,000 for a black car, the same as for silver paint.

The standard, no-cost paint will be “a simple white,” Musk confirmed when asked about the default finish. Tesla does currently offer a white, but it’s a pearl multi-coat. This base finish, however, won’t be the same as that.

Musk didn’t give a reason for the change in paint policy, though there are a few potential justifications. The most obvious is that white presumably costs less than black for Tesla to apply: indeed, for most automakers, a basic white is the de-facto finish. With budget under the microscope at Tesla, and executives required to sign off on every single expenditure, the accountants have undoubtedly run the figures and decided that white is more cost-effective.

However there’s also the thermal advantage. Black paint absorbs more heat than white does, and so the car gets hotter. That can mean a hotter cabin, and thus more power used up on the HVAC system. It’s unclear quite how much juice might be saved, and of course it’s very climate dependent, but those in hotter locations could see a difference and may need to precondition their car less.

Meanwhile the decision also dovetails with car color trends. According to paint specialist PPG, for example, nearly three-quarters of all cars sold in North America are white, black, gray, or silver. In 2018, 26-percent of all cars sold in North America were white, followed by 19-percent in black. The proportions of white cars to other colors is even more dramatic in Europe, South America, and Asia Pacific.

It’s not Tesla’s first color switch-up in recent time, however. Back in September 2018, the automaker announced it was removing two of its paint options – Obsidian Black Metallic and Midnight Silver Metallic – so as to simplify manufacturing.

What we shouldn’t expect is a big change in the overall palette any time soon. Asked whether Tesla was going to revamp its hues as other manufacturers often do from time to time, Musk said that wasn’t on the cards. “Changing the palette is hell on service, because cars last for 20 years,” he explained. “Every color change has a long tail of hurt, especially for Model 3.”


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