What's the Most Popular Car Color?

White is the new white. That is the conclusion to be drawn from the just-released DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report. White is the top vehicle color choice in North America for the second straight year, and it is a strong player globally, but there is white and then there is white. The study noted that “white effects“ like pearl and iridescent finishes, which allow today's apparently more conservative consumers to differentiate their cars subtly, in part explain white's dominance.

White and white pearl accounted for 16 and 4 percent of the automotive market for exterior color, respectively, in the study. Black and silver, two colors that are strong globally, also turned in strong performances. Black and black effects scored 11 and 6 percent, while silver, which led the pack for six consecutive years, garnered a 17 percent share of the North American market.

An examination of color trends in North America shows that there is a continuing convergence of color choice globally, with color preferences becoming more homogeneous across the globe. Additionally, DuPont color experts see white as a “palette cleansing“ color, signaling a pause after a long-running trend (silver) and in advance of a new yet-to-be identified trend. The year 2007 also marked the end of silver's seven-year reign as top-dog color, coinciding closely with the two terms of soon-to-be-gone President George W. Bush.

“We're seeing basic colors like black, white and silver continuing in the lead, but consumers are looking for differentiation with tri-coat and other effects,“ said Karen Surcina, color marketing manager, DuPont Performance Coatings. “These colors and effects provide a higher degree of customization and luxury effect, which allow consumers a conservative differentiation from the traditional color palette.“

“While black, white and silver continue to remain strong, we are seeing interesting trends developing,“ Surcina said. “The popularity of true chromatic colors, such as blue and red, are on the rise, with blue growing worldwide as consumers look to more environmental themes and lifestyles.“

As DuPont reported earlier this year, blue is becoming more popular and currently ranks with 13 percent of the overall market among consumers in North America. Blue has garnered 12 to 13 percent of the market for the past few years and is a top-five color choice in every market with the exception of Brazil.

“Blue is being utilized as the 'new green' because it is well understood by people all over the world that blue can also represent the preservation of nature,“ said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of Color: Messages and Meanings. “Imagine a clear blue sky mirrored in a pristine blue lake, and you will get the picture. It is a universal favorite.“

While strong colors appear to be on the rise, neutrals seem to be waning in popularity. Silver and light gray shades still capture great interest from consumers, but in the long run, they show a decreasing tendency in almost all regions, according to Nancy Lockhart, DuPont color designer for North America. As we age, we show a decreasing tendency, too, but that's another story.