You may say that all whites are the same, but Momoko Okamoto, who came up with the Sonic White colour for the Lexus NX’s global debut, would disagree. And watching as a white Lexus NX sits bathed in sunlight in the Colour Study Area, you would too.
White is perhaps one of the most popular colours for car buyers, although it is not a popular with car designers. If the shade is even a little off, a car can appear unfocused and unrefined. So when Okamoto decided on white for the new NX, they were more than a little worried. Due to the bullet-like design of the NX, a colour that would accentuate the dynamic contours was important, so the journey to find the perfect white began.
Months were spent with nothing but dead ends until Okamoto finally had a breakthrough. Inspired by the way snow glimmers in the sunlight in her hometown of Sapporo, on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, she decided they had to find a way to get paint to mimic the effect. To do this, the team relied on a developed technology called sonic painting; instead of the usual three layers of car paint jobs, the sonic technology made it possible for Lexus to use five layers.
Three different components were layered to make one purely dazzling white colour; a thick layer of white underneath, with a pearl mica middle layer, and finally a dense but ultra-thin top layer made up of white with microscopic mica chips to reflect and let light through in the same way that snow does.
A full-scale mock-up of the NX then had to be sculpted from clay to be sure whether the colour would work or not. Once this herculean feat of engineering had been accomplished, there still remained the task of figuring out how to reproduce the effect in a factory. An even coating has to be achieved on all the angles of the cars body throughout all the layers applied, and it’s not unusual for cars to be taken off the assembly line and be manually resprayed by the factory’s paint artisans.
Division head Kitamura sums it up perfectly: ‘What we do isn’t glamourous, but no other company goes this far or can beat us on quality.’ It seems incredible that so much work can go into creating just one shade of white, but that’s exactly why Lexus consistently produce such stunning results.