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Dull Matte Finishes Go From Cheap to Ultra-Chic

Designers say the low-gloss look is becoming a popular means of making vehicles stand out in a crowd.

DETROIT – The shinier-the-better used to be the rule for new cars at auto shows, with each auto maker competing to offer the most mirror-like finish.

But now an increasing number of new vehicles are sporting low-gloss matte finishes.

Suzuka Gray, Designo Magno Alanite Gray, Frozen Gray: these are a few of the names of the decidedly un-shiny, primer-only looks that have gone from cheap to ultra-chic at the North American International Auto Show here.

Designers say the low-gloss look is becoming a popular means of making vehicles stand out in a crowd. It started in the ultra-expensive custom- and performance-car arena and now is working its way into higher-volume, lower-cost models.

A Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid featuring the optional Designo Magno Alanite Gray matte finish starts at about $91,000, but Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. also shows off a matte-finish version of its Veloster 3-door sport coupe. It starts at $17,000.

Traditionalists may complain the lack of a shiny clearcoat makes an otherwise gorgeous car look unfinished, but they appear to be in the minority.

Forget about buying a $200,000 Audi R8 GT with a dull ivory finish called Suzuka Gray; it’s sold out, an Audi spokesman says. Eliminating the shiny clear topcoat to the paint also reduced weight by 14 lbs. (6.4 kg), he adds.

And if you had your heart set on buying an ’11 “Frozen Gray” M3 coupe, you are out of luck as well. BMW AG offered a special production run of 30 M3s featuring the special low-gloss gray paint last June.

M3 enthusiasts were instructed to call a special number at a specific time to reserve their copy of the $77,600 3-Series with the dull-gray paint. The entire allotment of 30 cars with the unique paint sold out in 12 minutes, BMW says.

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