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Cars reflect popularity of bold, bright colors

August 1, 2014
Popular car colors are determined by everything from technology and social interaction to America’s economic recovery, according to the BASF Color Excellence Group, which conducts trend research on what car colors will be popular in four to five years.
Its findings, revealed July 30, include the rise in popularity of certain blues, greens and oranges that reflect the blue skies, lawns and unpretentious warmness found throughout Midwest  homes. And the always-popular white is gaining even more fans thanks to its association with hip, up-to-date technology.
"The car body is an expression of you to the world," said Paul Czornij, technical manager for the BASF Color Excellence group. "The colors we’ve chosen will highlight a car’s beauty and create a strong color memory while reflecting both the driver’s desires and the North American consciousness."
While automakers make color choices depending on body style and car type — think darker reds or blacks for luxury cars, whites and blues for electric vehicles —automakers are keying in on a few specific trends, Czornij said.
"They’re really trying to push into more expressive, bold colors," he said. "Every one of them is trying to do something a little more different."
Those colors include highly saturated, bright reds — a color Czornij said is always popular. Detroit’s Big Three also are looking at bright silvers, metallic and sparkly blacks and subdued whites.
Consumer preferences vary by region and by time, Czornij said. Europe, for example, favors more white, beige and brass tones, colors the industry there has previously shied away from. Turquoise, a color popular in North America in 2011 — its Native American influences connect buyers to the land, according to Czornij — is gaining popularity with Europeans, who favor it as a simple, stark and unsubtle color.
New North American colors are influenced by the Midwest and its welcoming residents, Czornij said. Those colors range from an orange Haymaker, to La Garra Charrua (the tenacious claw), a light blue influenced by the prairie sky.
"Noting many political, societal and technological references, we realized that the ‘flyover states’ and the Rust Belt regions are becoming increasingly productive in our post-Recession era," Czornij said.
Despite the new trends and preferences, subtle tones still dominate the market. Last October, Troy, Mich.-based PPG Industries, the leading supplier of automotive paints, said nearly three-quarters of all new vehicles that PPG supplied during the 2013 model year were neutral colors — white, black, gray or silver.
"Our car colors have to be more on the conservative side," Czornij said. "If you have too bold of a color, once that trend is gone in six months it’s not like your closet where you can say ‘out with the old and in with the new.’ There are ways to be innovative and still be on more of a conservative side."