• Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Jeep calls the rust-colored paint that adorns its 2014 Wrangler Sahara "Copperhead Pearl." Ford has named a similar blend of reddish-brown hues on its Escape Titanium its "Sunset Metallic." Land Rover, displaying a near-identical color on its Range Rover Sport has named the shade "Chili Red."

Call it whatever you want. Paul Czornij calls it validation. Four years ago, the automotive color expert predicted this blend of browns, reds and oranges would become a popular one in the auto industry. Look around the floor of the Detroit Auto Show, and variations of the color, which resembles earthy mud from the bottom of a red-rock canyon, are everywhere. Buick has painted a muted version called "Copper Red Metallic" on its Regal, while Ford has developed a second version, "Copper Flame," that mixes more orange in the paint blend. Not to be outdone, Nissan has its own bold version on the Sport Sedan Concept (shown above) that draws inspiration from the shades of a Stradivarius violin.

"Edward Snowden is going to have a big effect in the coming years on paint colors," Czornij says

Car enthusiasts may view an auto show through the lens of concept cars, fenders and horsepower. Czornij, officially the technical manager of the color excellence department at BASF, sees it through a spectrum of hues, sparkles and flecks of paint. Through those details, he detects trends in color and style, but more importantly, he can figure out what's going on in the world.

Turns out, the color of your car says a lot about you. And collectively, the colors we choose as Americans say a lot about our country. "Edward Snowden is going to have a big effect in the coming years on paint colors," Czornij says, referencing the former computer programmer who leaked classified National Security Agency documents that showed how the government amassed records on thousands of private citizens. No, Czornij is not kidding. He predicts Americans will react to erosions in privacy in subconscious-yet-powerful ways. They'll select colors that carry trustworthy connotations, like blues and greens.


Events like Sept. 11 and the Great Recession also carried powerful implications for car colors, he said. Car shoppers stayed away from bold colors that might connote ostentatiousness or wealth, clearing the way for a rise in whites and silvers over the past decade.

White has been the most popular car color for three consecutive years, accounting for 25 percent of the North American market, according to an annual survey conducted by PPG Industries, a leading supplier of automotive paint. Silver and black claim 19 percent of the market, followed by gray at 12 percent.

It takes approximately four years for a new paint color to go from conception to finished product, Czornij says, so there's a lag time in colors catching up with the times. For example, even though the national economy stopped contracting in June 2009, according the National Bureau of Economic Research, it's not a surprise that bold colors are only now returning.

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept live at 2014 Detroit Auto Show - front three-quarter view

So what's next? In Detroit, examples are on display everywhere. In addition to the rusty red combinations popping up in Cobo Hall, Infiniti captured attention and the imagination of many at the show by displaying a new burgundy color on its Q50 Eau Rouge Concept (above). The average car gets about four coats of paint, each thinner than a human hair. On the Eau Rouge, dozens are required. The extra coats helps the vehicle achieve the appearance of a swirling glass of red wine.

Elsewhere, Czornij spots a Ford Taurus SHO on the floor that sports a nuanced coat of emerald green. Up close, he sees coarse flecks of yellow in the paint that project brightness. From a few feet away, the paint seems to change colors across curves in the hood, at once morphing from bright green to a deeper emerald to almost black. Green, he predicts, is making a comeback. It had been painted on nearly a quarter of all cars in the mid 1990s as consumers sought a way to promote environmental friendliness, but now accounts for only five percent of all car colors. He thinks it will rise again around 2018, because, like blue, it symbolizes stability and trust.

"Colors are very personal," says Czornij, who has a background in chemistry. "They can be overt or subliminal. ... Color is very subjective. If I showed you a Coke can and then took it away and asked you to select a paint chip that resembled that red, we'd all pick different chips. Maybe 20 different people would pick 20 different chips. It affects you differently than how it affects me."

White signifies both eco-friendliness and technologic advancement, largely thanks to Apple's ascension

White will remain popular. It signifies both eco-friendliness and technologic advancement, largely thanks to Apple's ascension, Czornij says. Affluent customers typically like to promote both qualities, he says, so many luxury car brands rely heavily on white cars. Indeed, on the floor in Detroit, Lexus and Lincoln both have displays comprised almost entirely of white cars. Both cars on the Tesla stand are white.

Czornij and his crew at BASF create about 65 new colors every year for automakers to evaluate. He travels the world for inspiration, eyeing cities like Shanghai and Paris. He walks Fifth Avenue in New York and the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Despite the trips that get his creative energy flowing, he knows there's always a practical consideration that looms at the crux of the decision-making process when it comes to new colors.

"Do you know what the primary factor is that affects a customer's purchase?" Czornij asks. "It's resale value. Which is why we're all so conservative with the color. You get something that's too trendy, and you're a nerd in a year."

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 34 Comments
      Afifi Nasir
      • 1 Year Ago
      bullshit. 90% of cars in autoshows, showrooms, billboards and media ads are all painted in striking colors to make the car appear more eye-catching, but in reality people will always go for neutral colors (black, silver, white, gray) when it comes to purchase. even this has been proved by DuPont automotive reports over and over again every year. red ferrari and those alike doesn't count as the only represent a miniscule portion of total car population.
      AronD
      • 1 Year Ago
      And in the next ten years the most popular color will still be white.
      rcarrowood
      • 1 Year Ago
      in the end, the most important color is green...
      G Prodigy
      • 1 Year Ago
      the cars just have more ORGANIC lines these days....so it just makes sense to add earthly tones to them to make the overly styled curves seem natural.
      Drachen
      • 1 Year Ago
      If Edward Snowden is influencing paint colors, how long until we see Commie Red, Cowardly Yellow and Turncoat Blue offered? The only color I woild be interested in is Prison Jumpsuit Orange, which is what Snowden will be wearing when he is dragged back to this country in shackles to stand trial.
        Justin Campanale
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Drachen
        And why the hell shouldn't we know if the government is tracking us or not? It's bad enough that they are, but it's absolutely unacceptable that we know that they are.
        SCOTTM
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Drachen
        Woops! In my quick reaction to your insulting and un American comment, Drachen, I accidently gave you thumbs up. It should be -9, not -7. So, please subtract 2 votes from whatever number you see in your post. BTW, you're a dumbass!
      machineman
      • 1 Year Ago
      some suggestions: Listen to me Lime, NSApple Red , Track me tangerine, Bug me blue, Leaking Lemon
      canuckcharlie
      • 1 Year Ago
      what a load of BS
      samueljward
      • 1 Year Ago
      The 1st year the Nissan Mirano and Infiniti FX35/45 where released, they featured a vibrant metallic orange, very simular to the current Nissan show car.So 7 years later it is "predicted" that warm, vibrant earth tones are returning?! Rememer the PT Cruiser concept, 15 years ago, in vibrant Inca (or aztec) Gold? List goes on, this story sux, vibrantly.
      dovegraybird
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm gonna be the grumpy old man here. I miss the "good old days". In the 70's, Oldsmobile had 18 colors to choose from, 7 different shades of brown, the then in color. Nowadays your lucky if you get 5 or 6 choices. Personally, instead of some idiot predicting whats going to be in, I wish automakers would increase the choices given and let the public decide.
      bootsnchaps60
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ok colors, ugly cars.
      Muttons
      • 1 Year Ago
      I liked blue as a car color before the Snowden crap and I like it now. I would never buy a green car. Random things that happen on the news don't change the way I feel about car colors. Maybe I'm not the norm.
        EXP Jawa
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Muttons
        I tend to agree, except I'd actually choose green if offered. If there's no green, I'd move to blue, unless I didn't like the shade, and so on. I don't see Snowden having impact on that...
      jebibudala
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have one vehicle I resprayed it as white. The only reason is because cost, white was cheapest. The other 5 are Red, including my sportbike and mobility scooter. Red demands more respect on the road, almost like saying "Get the F out of my way." I get no respect in a white car. I even get mad respect on my red mobility scooter.
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