Top car colors
car color for 2004?
Think Lone Ranger:
Hi ho, Silver!
| Top car colors|
in North America
Power Information Network LLC, an affiliate of J.D. Power and Associates.
year, at least one in every four cars, trucks, vans and SUVs will sport a silver
paint job -- up from one in five in 2000.
really the unofficial color of the millennium," says Alan Eggly, senior designer
for color and materials for Ford Motor Company. "It really accentuates the
lines of a vehicle."
Eggly contends that color is third
on the list when buyers choose a car, right behind body style and price.
extremely important," he says.
And silver is one
of the colors that never really go out of style.
black and white are always up there," says Tom Libby, director of industry
analysis for the Power Information Network LLC, an affiliate of J. D. Power and
There's a good reason silver has become
the "it" color for cars. "Silver is very mechanical looking,"
says Ron Will, manager of advanced concepts and design for Subaru of America.
"It has that mechanical presence."
The value of silver seems to cross price lines, as well. "It's
transcendent," says Eggly. "Silver is No. 1 on most vehicle
lines, whether it's a [car], SUV or truck. It's so versatile, it's
like black in your wardrobe."
Am I blue?
Although silver is king, automakers are seeing
other colors, too.
"Finally the world has awakened to blue,"
says Christine Dickey, color and trim manager for Toyota Motor Sales
USA Inc. "Blue and green cycle against each other," she
explains. When green is popular, blue is not and vice versa.
In the '90s, "for seven or eight years, green
was huge," says Chris Webb, exterior color and trim designer
for General Motors Design.
But now blue is back. "Blue inventory is turning
quick," says Dickey.
One hot trend that may borrow from
both: new shades of silver with hints of blue, green or even tan.
"We're also seeing a resurgence of mechanical-looking
grays -- not super dark," says Eggly. The metallic colors run
from cool, bluish-hued tones to warmer shades with tan highlights.
When it comes to sports cars, red is the most popular
color -- accounting for a full third of the category.
Drivers of entry-level compacts and premium luxury cars
both prefer Henry Ford's old fave: black. So do the drivers of luxury
SUVs and luxury sports cars.
Keep your eyes sharp and you may even notice a few orange
or purple models on the road this year.
"You'll see orange happening in home interiors,"
says Webb. When the auto industry borrows the hue "it will be
a very clean chromatic color" for sporty cars and "a slightly
richer more pumpkin" shade for SUVs, he predicts. "Orange
is an important trend."
And don't forget the regional variations. "The
Northeast is darker," says Eggly. "But past the Rust Belt
and into the Sun Belt, everybody wants light, light colors."
All that glitters
Thanks to new advances in paints, metallic colors
are hotter than ever.
"One of the things that is really interesting about
the whole silver phenomenon is that makers of aluminum flake [one
of the ingredients that gives paint that metallic look] have been
able to create an aluminum flake that's much cleaner and brighter
looking," says Eggly.
"They can create very fine silky silvers or that
course chunky heavy metallic look -- and everything in between,"
he adds. "It's given many variations for silver."
In a luxury model, "it's a fine grain silver that
looks like satin," says Will. "In a sportier model, it's
a [bigger] flake."
Even with bright colors, buyers are taking a new look
at metallics. "Solid reds have been dissipating for the last
five years," says Dickey. "People are not buying it -- they're
buying more metallic reds."
And to the younger drivers, "metallic looks more
expensive," she says.
Several companies are also using three coats, rather
than the more traditional two, to add extra richness to metallic
whites and reds. The process produces "a dimensional and dramatic
effect," says Eggly. "With tri-coat whites, the highlights
are almost silver. It looks so rich and luxurious."
When it comes to the interior of the car, expect
fewer colors and more textures. Automakers are playing up the neutral
colors such as gray, charcoal and beige. But to give it a new look,
they are adding a wide variety of materials.
"We're seeing a continued trend of neutral atmospheres
on the interior," says Eggly.
When it comes to color to match or coordinate to the
outside, look for small shots of color in the accents, rather than
the main background hues.
Another hot trend -- one color but many different textures.
"The Volkswagen Beetle did something really nice
for us and came out with interesting textured vinyls in different
scales of grains," says Dickey. "That led a lot of designers
to realize we could do a lot more things on the inside of our vehicles."
If the outside has a stylish industrial edge, the focus
on the inside seems to be just the opposite. Designers want something
that appears soft, touchable and luxurious.
"As an industry, we're paying more attention
to finishes," says Will. And the focus, he adds, "is tactile."
Automakers are already planning the new exterior
colors for 2007 and 2008. So where is color going?
Expect the world to get a lot more gray. "Gray
is gaining momentum," says Jennifer Cortez, spokeswoman for Audi
of America. "It's almost as popular as silver."
"It's a continuation of the silver and gray family,"
he says. "It's not going to decline.
Just as with silver, look for new shades that veer toward
blue, green or even tan, says Dickey.
Several automakers predict that blue will continue
to build momentum. And look for more tri-coat colors that, thanks
to their multiple layers, can offer a "shift" or "travel"
as the color appears to change slightly.
The color of money
What about a correlation between popular car colors
and the economy?
"Anytime the economy is uncertain, everything goes
neutral," says Weldon Munsey, vehicle lines manager, Mazda North
American Operations. "When there's an upswing, you see better,
more vibrant colors."
Back when leasing was big in the '90s, Dickey, who was
working with the Lexus line, was getting requests for "new colors
"They would lease for two or three years, and then
want something different," she says. "That's not happening
anymore. And buyers take a more practical approach when they buy."
Now drivers seem to be focusing on colors that will
stand the test of time.
"When people are buying a car, they're saying,
'What kind of color can I live with for the next seven to eight years?'"
she says. "'And what's my resale value like if I sell it in five?'
That kind of thinking is happening whether the economy's good or whether
In spite of a tight economy, though, some automakers
are seeing more of a demand for personalization in their cars, right
down to the color. Buyers are "putting extra expense into things
to make them unique," says Webb. "We have found no concern
with that -- incredibly expensive interiors, costly pigments."
One example: Manufacturers are trying out paints that
look different depending on the light level or angle. One pigment
varies from red to blue, says Webb. "As you walk around the
car or pass it on the freeway, it would visually change color --
almost like a mood ring."
But at $350 per gallon, these paints are five-to-eight
times the cost of regular paint, Webb says. Still, automakers view
it as a solid option for limited edition cars.
A different type of specialty paint with a much more
subtle gray-to-purple hue tagged "Ultra Violet" was used
on 99 limited-edition Neiman Marcus Cadillac XLR convertibles offered
through the retailer's catalogue in mid-October. They sold out in
Dana Dratch is a freelance writer
based in Atlanta.
-- Posted: Dec. 9, 2003