It's hard to outdo Las Vegas when it comes to flash and dash, but coming close were some shocking colors on cars at the latest Specialty Equipment Market Assn. Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

More than 100,000 attendees previewed some of the most innovative paint finishes available on more than 20 automobiles at the SEMA exhibition. Attendees' feedback helps determine what colors end up on future production vehicles, especially ones likely to get aftermarket accessorizing.

Optically enhanced finishes were created by an industry consortium consisting of Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes Corp., the Color Design Studio of America, and several auto makers, including Honda, General Motors, Saturn and Toyota.

Shocking colors were seen in several current and concept vehicles in GM's exhibit.

Examples include a Pontiac Grand Prix in a dark cherry finish and a new GMC Envoy SUV in a bright silver fading to blue. Two of the most eye-catching: a Chevrolet Equinox in a bright yellow with matching interior accents and the new Chevrolet Aveo in the extreme new color of Limefire.

“We're constantly striving to find ways to make our vehicles stand out and attract more attention,” says John Moss, GM's manager of specialty vehicles. “At a show such as SEMA, we look at what will make a customer stop and look at our vehicle versus a competitor's. The exterior design and finish are the primary methods we use to get that accomplished.”

Superior color.

That's what “strikes” at SEMA and “wows” attendees, says Tom Hughes, GM's product development manager.

Sherwin-Williams' Tom Branscome says auto makers “come to the table with certain expectations for their vehicles.”

He says it's up to the consortium's Color Design Studio and Sherwin-Williams “to work together to turn their vision into a reality.”

Moss says, “While our primary goal is to make a finish that really makes a consumer stop and look, we also try to keep reality in perspective — to introduce colors that are commercially practical, with workable and affordable formulations.

“We want to whet the appetite of the customer and gauge their interest in introducing a new finish. We'd like to move the needle on the spectrum — introduce new finishes that consumers request, while still maintaining a high quality, durable paint that is repairable and has the ability to be mass-produced.”

The auto makers use the color feedback garnered at SEMA to determine the practicality of mass-producing finishes that receive the most positive responses.

“We continue to receive requests for a silver finish we introduced on an Escalade at SEMA three years ago,” says Moss. “New paint products are really effective in gaining consumer confidences.”

He says the consortium hopes to “raise the bar in this arena.”