Henry Ford infamously promised of the Model T car, “A customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.”
And while black isn’t quite in the top spot on the current car color popularity roster, it’s close enough to make us realize that even a hundred years isn’t long enough to lure humankind out of the Neutral Zone.
The hottest colors on the street
If a quick look on the freeway didn’t offer enough evidence for a pretty solid guess, the stats confirmed it: when it comes to what they drive, people just love their neutral colors.
DuPont’s most popular car colors worldwide (2012)
White/White Pearl: 23 percent
Black/Black Effect: 21 percent
Silver: 18 percent
Gray: 14 percent
Red: 8 percent
Blue: 6 percent
Brown/Beige: 6 percent
Green: 1 percent
Yellow/Gold: 1 percent
Others: 2 percent
Most popular car colors: North America (2013)
A little closer to (our) home, PPG reported that their top car, truck and SUV colors in North America during 2013 were as follows:
White: 21 percent
Black: 19 percent
Gray: 17 percent
Silver: 15 percent
These were followed by red, blue, natural hues (browns, tans, golds, oranges & yellows) and green.
Axalta Coating Systems, a global manufacturer of automotive coatings and another authority on color trends in the automotive industry, also released a report in 2014 with their findings on the hottest vehicle colors in North America.
They agree that the two colors are increasing in popularity are white (26%) and black (20%) — with black particularly popular in the luxury car and luxury SUV market segments. However, the combination of those two shades — silver and gray — continue to slowly fall out of favor. The most popular chromatic colors? Red, with a 9% share, and blue with 7%.
A whiter shade of pale?
“Today, white tri-coats… evoke quality and value among a variety of vehicle segments,” according to Nancy Lockhart, DuPont color marketing manager. “Solid whites have been seen in vanilla shades, stone shades, and the current preference of bright whites.”
Over at PPG, they agree that there’s more than one way to paint a color. “While white continues to be the most dominant choice in car color, we see growth in the variety of whites being offered to consumers,” said Jane E Harrington, PPG manager, color styling, automotive OEM (original equipment manufacturer) coatings. “Car manufacturers are seeking ways to create variations of white, silver, black and gray that are specific to their brands and that complement different vehicle types.”
Other notable car color trends
PPG also pointed out the following:
- “Sport” models were most likely to feature shades of red and blue
- The largest percentage of gold and beige vehicles was in the minivan segment
- Luxury vehicles, 57 percent of which were gray in 2013, were most likely to feature finishes in black metallic and white pearl
- Color varied most across sport utility vehicles (SUVs), with relatively equal distributions finished in shades of white, black, blue, red and gray
Upcoming automotive color palettes
What’s on the horizon in terms of vehicle colors? Here’s what the two companies are forecasting, along with their fanciful names and descriptions.
- Hi-Breed emphasizes the new design harmony between man and nature with a palette consisting of neutrals, pastels and bright hues such as Lapis, a brilliant gemstone blue that uses ANDARO tint dispersions by PPG.
- Mosaic is based on the wealth of artisan patterns, shapes and prints, as well as their strong colorations, and it includes colors such as Autumn, a vivid metallic orange with colored aluminum flake that evokes an image of fall foliage.
- New Spirit reflects the primitive, natural colors of a desert sunset with shades such as Sunray, an intense yellow tri-coat color with a high-sparkle glass flake.
- Magnifigance combines the words magnificent and elegance, and the palette recaptures elaborate styling details and opulent, regal colors for a post-recession world with colors such as Mystic Magenta, a vibrant purple with a unique hue-shift effect.
- Theorem is a precise and minimal contemporary palette that uses rich brown, red and deep blue as accents for balanced neutrals such as Crisp Grey, a graphite color with a surprise highlight of green metallic.
- Exceptional luxury and quality are associated with colors in the “Noble Ambition” group. These color selections are those most associated with luxury goods throughout history. Colors include a jewel-like green, “Ivy League,” a pearlescent white, “Prince Charming,” and a bold bronze, “Nobelist.”
- High visibility design trends and modern colors exaggerated in the “Individual Attitude” group. These stylish colors are intended for the fashionable individual who wants to be noticed. Colors include an intense red solid color, “Eye Candy,” a dark teal, “Miss Personality,” and a soft muted pink metallic, “Lone Wolf.”
- Innovative technologies and energy initiatives are brought forward in the “Progressive Nature” group. Some of the metallic variations are “Electronic Beat” and “Virtual Vision.” Natural colors include beige, “High Tech Nature” and a medium earthy brown, “Futurist.”
- Historical automotive colors are revived in the “Authentic History” group. In this group, past favorites are reformulated with a modern twist. Key colors are “Re-imagined Gray” and “Green Revival.” Others include a bright red, “Famous,” and a grayish blue, “Global Heritage.” These latest color trends are formulated into leading technology and application processes for today’s automotive manufacturing.
Six decades of automotive color
The top five most popular colors by model year, dating back 60+ years, wered by Axalta Coating Systems into a historical mosaic of color.