Candy Apple Red. Plumb Crazy. Fly Yellow. What's your favorite car color?
Even if you love high-contrast, eye-popping shades, chances are the vehicle in your driveway is white, black, silver or gray. These "non-colors" dominate according to DuPont, one of the world's largest suppliers of automotive paint. With operations in 90 countries, the company keeps a close watch over automotive color trends.
DuPont conducts annual color surveys, and in 2010, the company found that across the globe, silver is the world's most popular automotive color. Americans choose white most frequently.
This isn't as boring as it sounds. Nor are you.
"White tends to lead in the US because it is a popular color for fleets," said David Fischer, DuPont's Automotive Business Marketing Manager. "The other factor that drives the popularity of white is White Pearl type paints," explained Fischer, "a color that popular on SUVs and luxury sedans."
When fleet sales are factored out of the figures, black becomes the most popular for US drivers. DuPont's annual surveys reveal that black has been steadily gaining in popularity. DuPont discovered that silver's popularity in the US peaked in 2007. "Technology is playing a role in black's popularity because of the ability to produce more dramatic black finishes," said Fischer.
Fischer told AOL Autos how technology contributes to paint finishes. Vehicles used to be primed and then painted a color. The top-coat finish was "it."
Clear-coat technology was introduced in the late 1970s and became popular in the 1980s. The "clear coat" was a top layer sprayed on top of the paint color to add depth and durability to the finish. Currently, the most complex mass-production paint process is the tri-coat. It is made up of a base color, a translucent mid-coat (that add the pearlescent or metal flake effect), and a top clear coat.
Red is America's fifth favorite color, followed by blue, the family of browns and beiges, and greens. Yellow, golds and other colors end up covering less than two percent of US vehicles.
Why We're So Conservative
Nancy Lockhart, DuPont's Color Marketing Manager explained the apparent uniformity in preferences around the world.
"Because vehicles are such an expensive purchase, people tend to be conservative about color," she said. "They do want to express themselves, but it's not like fashion where you see huge changes year to year. With a necktie, you can buy a wild one, wear it a few times and forget about it. It's not like that with a new car that you have to live with for years."
"There aren't dramatic changes year to year, but when you look at the differences between decades, the shifts are dramatic." Lockhart referenced the iconic color pallet of the 1950s that featured rich salmon reds, sky blues and buttery yellows.
"Colors themselves can even change over time," Lockhart continued, pointing to the constantly changing character of white. In the 1950s, white tended to be more of a stone white or ivory. Today's most popular white colors are brilliantly white or pearlescent.
As for what the future holds, DuPont's Lockhart and Fischer agree that manufacturers have technology on their side. "High-impact colors will be used by manufacturers to make a statement," said Lockhart. Brilliant colors were not always technically possible to mass produce. She referenced the bright green color Ford featured on their recently introduced 2010 Focus model, "But these bright colors will never be the highly popular colors."
"Darker, metallic-flake finishes will also become more prevalent," said Fischer, who pointed toward the trend of mature drivers moving into smaller, more expensive vehicles.
In the near terms, it looks like non-colors will continue to dominate in the US market and across the globe. In a world that seems at odds with itself, at least everybody agrees on what colors to paint their vehicles.