White Is Right for Cars

With gasoline prices making consumers blue, maybe it is poetic justice that more and more of them are considering the color for their own vehicle. Although white, silver and black continue to dominate the global mass auto market, car enthusiasts around the world are leaning toward various treatments of blue, according to leading auto industry designers and a global team of DuPont color designers.

For the last 55 years, the DuPont Global Automotive Color Popularity Report has provided a year-end, data-based snapshot of mass market car color preference, since DuPont is one of the world’s largest global suppliers of paints and coatings to the industry.

“This year, we thought it would be interesting to ask car and color designers in midyear about automobile buyers’ color preferences,” said Karen Surcina, color marketing and technology manager, DuPont Automotive Systems.

Emily Hung, DuPont color designer for the Asia Pacific region, says dark blue metallic is popular and is being fine-tuned for that region. Candy whites and tri-coat pearl finishes are also extremely popular, confirming the 2007 DuPont Global survey finding that white had overtaken silver as the most popular color in Asia and North America. Luxury car buyers in Asia-Pacific countries continue to favor black and midtone metallic grays, while champagne is favored over light silver in medium-size cars.

Blue is the most important chromatic color in Europe, with 12 percent of the market, reports Elke Dirks, DuPont color designer for Europe. Chromatic colors are those with hue, unlike white, grey and black.

“Black, which overtook silver in popularity in Europe last year, is seen as a trendy newcomer there and could double in volume,” Dirks said.  

Wolstano Marin, DuPont color designer for Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, says the “achromatic range,” including white, silver, gray and black, dominates consumer preference in that area of Latin America. While green led the chromatic colors for several years, blue now seems to be the most popular in that family, he said.  

Blue also plays a role in American tastes, says Nancy Lockhart, DuPont color designer for North America. She sees lighter blues emerging with a reddish accent as a clean, fresh trend. Medium and dark shades of blue are more greenish, evoking a modern feel. White tri-coats such as pearls are chosen by buyers for their luxurious, yet unpretentious, presentation. Interestingly, she says oranges and golds are also important and reddish gold is an emerging influence.

“While current economic conditions in North America are not being felt in car color choices, people are clearly being influenced by the ‘green’ movement, with natural versions of bold colors taking hold,” Lockhart said. “For example, copper seems to be replacing flashier gold finishes, and royal blues will give way to lighter, cleaner and more water-like blues. Even white will change, with ultra whites and yellowish whites giving way to cleaner versions.”

Economic uncertainty in North America seems to be influencing people to return to basics such as white and red, according to Mollie Engel, senior color designer for Kia Design Center America, but they are new versions of these common colors. While Engel doesn’t see car buyers moving toward blue, she sees a growing importance of “olive greens” as well as earth tones such as dark grey, bronze and dark browns as “part of this new, classically modern palette.”

Christopher Webb, lead color and trend designer, interior and exterior, of General Motors, says customers are embracing color again, with brown, orange and blue selling well. GM takes consumer input seriously. Several years ago, Webb polled Corvette Car Club members to find out which color they would most like to see on their vehicles. Their request for orange came at a time when an “orange trend” was developing in other areas of product design. The result was a color, developed with DuPont, called “Atomic Orange.”

“Blue will continue to be strong in the marketplace, along with a growing trend in natural and authentic colors,” said Jim Parker, senior manager, color and trim design, of Chrysler LLC. “The 2009 Dodge Ram will be offered in several new colors like Deep Water Blue Pearl and Austin Tan Pearl, which will accentuate its distinctive, bold design and reflect these color trends.”

Although he has not yet seen any economy-related trends in consumer color choices, consumer-buying tends to lean toward more conservative choices during economic downturns. Regardless of the economy, says Parker, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep offer a wide variety of color choices, allowing consumers to express their own personalities. And expressing personality is what car colors are all about.