Most of us have heard the phrase, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it’s black.” Henry Ford, the founder of Ford motor company and also a pioneer of scale production, uttered that phrase. The car in question was the model T, the car that kicked off automobile ownership to the masses in the U.S. Today black remains the second most popular car color in the world. Automobile color and car features would change the infant automobile industry forever.
The Model T was available in almost any color when it was first introduced. The very first Model T came in red. Colors the car came in include green, bright red, dark blue, maroon, brown, gray and black.
Painting cars in the early 1900s was a time-consuming and expensive process. The paint had to be manually applied and took many coats. On average, a car took 3 weeks to paint and dry. Some colors could take up to 8 weeks to finish. They needed many buildings to house the painted cars to keep the cars out of the elements as they dried.
In 1914, Ford introduced assembly line car manufacturing. The process not only increased efficiency but also increased the output of cars. Unfortunately, something had to give with the process and that something was a choice of colors. Ford defaulted to the color black for many reasons. Black dried faster than any color. Painting techniques back then were limited to baked enamel. Enamel paint was durable and hard and black was the only pigment it worked in. Black paint was cheaper than the other colors and doesn’t require the detailing and precision of other colors.
By limiting the car color to black and introducing the assembly line method, Ford cut time required to paint and dry a car to three days! The process also cut the cost of painting a car from $50 to $30.
The Model T was the one and only car Ford offered and was only available in black from 1914 to 1925. The savings for the move were $30 million a year or equal to 15–50% of Ford’s profits. During this time, the Model T topped all car sales list and Ford was the number one auto manufacturer in the United States.
In 1923, The Dupont company which owned part of General Motors (GM), invented Duco paint. Duco dried faster than baked enamel, was just as cheap to apply…