Silver Reigns as Top Car Color

In Asia, Europe and North America, silver is top dog among automotive colors.  Designers and consumers alike have gravitated to the metallic color, which only makes sense since cars are composed primarily of steel.  But in North America, the continent that is starting to lead rather than follow color trends, rich shades of medium-dark metallic gray increased significantly in popularity while red and other high-chroma colors hint at major changes to come in the automotive color palette.

How do we know this?  We asked a top auto paint manufacturer.  Each year DuPont publishes its Automotive Color Popularity Report, which many feel is the industry's authoritative baseline for analyzing and predicting vehicle color trends.

Among the key findings: in the North American luxury segment, which is often indicative of future trends across all vehicle segments, medium-dark gray jumped from sixth place to the lead color choice, and red surpassed blue in the popularity standings. Gray jumped from sixth to third place in the sport/compact segment and has climbed four places to also become the third most popular color in the full-size/intermediate segment.  So is consumers' desire for cars with metallic hues going away?  Not necessarily.

"Medium-dark grays, enhanced with coarser metallic effects, retain the technical sophistication of silver while providing a sense of richness and value to differentiate new vehicle models from the mainstream," said Robert Daily, DuPont Automotive color marketing manager.

Overall, medium-dark gray spread across North America in the past year, increasing nearly 4.5 percentage points. Although silver remains the top vehicle color of choice at 20.2 percent, it slipped slightly in North America overall standings. Silver is trailed by white at 18.4 percent, which is up from 15.2 percent in 2002. Black, at nearly 12 percent remained the third most popular choice among vehicle consumers. Light brown, revitalized with soft metallic effects, increasing from 6.4 percent last year to nearly nine percent in 2003, moving up two places to the fifth spot.  Yeah, brown.

While brown is up, green is down. Medium-dark green, a color leader of the 1990s, has dropped out of the top 10 colors for luxury vehicles, but still made moderate gains in the full/intermediate and the SUV/truck/van vehicle segments.  Reds have been refined and updated with slightly cooler, bluish hues or made more brilliant with tinted clearcoats to remain extremely popular with consumers.  The increased popularity of more expressive colors such as bright blues, reds and even yellows indicate an increased sense of adventure among consumers and automotive stylists. In fact, yellow has emerged as a top-10 color in the sport/compact segment.

"Neutrals such as silver, white and black will always be major parts of the automotive color palette, but we can expect to see a wider range of color options in the near future," said Daily. "Newer models, such as the SUV/passenger car crossovers with their sculpted designs, can effectively use new treatments for neutrals or explore a range of high-chroma colors to create a stronger vehicle identity."

Cleveland-based auto writer Luigi Fraschini longs for the return of purple and orange cars, but that's just him being him.