Colour isn’t simply the finishing flourish of design at Mazda. It’s considered an essential element of form itself.

The perfect colour brings out subtle details that might otherwise be missed in Mazda’s beautifully reductive Kodo design philosophy.

There’s no better example of this than the new Rhodium White paint, coming soon to the Mazda CX‑5. With its unique metal-like shine, “it heightens the solid feel of the overall form, and the beautiful details in the reflection—even in the gamut where shade expression is difficult,” explains Keiichi Okamoto, Senior Creative Expert in the Design Division.

Rhodium White’s rich depth, radiance and fine grain accentuate the shadows that have been artfully sculpted into Mazda’s Kodo design. As you can imagine, this almost magical interaction between paint and metal took years of hard work and innovation to achieve.

“The general impression of white is that it’s pure and clean, and has an elegant feel to it. For our white we wanted to add some robustness to the elegance.”

Like the stunning Soul Red Crystal and Machine Grey, Rhodium White uses aluminum flakes to create a uniform reflective layer. Combined with the silky smooth, fine-grained white and a clear layer, the result is “a fine white, which at the same time has a metal-like feel in the way the surface shines,” says Okamoto. “Under a clear sky when the sun is shining at an angle is when the reflection is at its most metal-like.”

Mazda’s ingenious takuminuri method is used to apply the paint to perfection, with robots mimicking the movements of a human craftsperson and applying each layer with absolute precision. Only since the development of this technique has it been possible to create paint finishes that are so amazingly reflective, to work in harmony with the subtle contours crafted by Mazda’s designers.

White is an especially important colour for Mazda, and for Japan as a nation. It is the colour of purity and truth, the colour of snow, the colour of a blank page. “The inspiration for Rhodium White comes from Japanese aesthetics, the aesthetics of subtraction from the world of Zen—if pigment is taken away from a colour, you end up with white,” adds Okamoto.

“White paint requires more layers as it’s more transparent. However, we were able to achieve the same whiteness while reducing nearly 30% of the thickness due to the strength of the paint.”

Furthermore, when combined with red it is kouhaku, which is an integral part of Japanese culture, notably on the national flag. This significance motivated the team behind Rhodium White to deliver a flawless finish. “The biggest challenge was to eliminate unevenness,” says Okamoto. “All takuminuri colours have this tendency, but Rhodium White was the ultimate challenge, from perfecting the prototype at the design conceptualization stage all the way to mass production.”

“In order to achieve precise dispersion of aluminum flakes, we developed a technique to handle the paint thickness at a nanometre level. This enabled us to mass-produce paint that usually is only possible at the hand of a takumi,” says Koji Teramoto from the Painting, Trim & Final Assembly Engineering Department.

Joining Soul Red Crystal and Machine Grey, Rhodium White becomes the third signature colour for the brand.

“Soul Red Crystal expressed sportiness and passion, which set out our unique quality feel. Machine Grey demonstrated our pursuit in the aesthetics of machinery. For the new white, we wanted to convey the message that we Mazda experts from Japan are looking to take the brand to the next level,” says Okamoto.

One look at a car in Rhodium White should be enough to convince you of Mazda’s bold ambitions.

Words Nik Berg

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