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Silver the top color for new cars

By Claes Bell ·
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Posted: 4 pm ET

What color is your car? I'd give you 3 to 1 odds it's silver, gray or charcoal. That's because, for the 10th year in a row, PPG Industries' annual car color survey has found silver to be the most popular color in America, gracing 31 percent of new cars purchased in America.

The over-$40,000 Honda Odyssey Touring

Silver is the most popular car color for the 10th year in a row.

Black and white were tied for 2nd at 18 percent apiece, red came in 3rd with 11 percent, blue was 4th with 10 percent, earth tones like brown and tan came in 5th with 8 percent, and green came in last with 4 percent.

You might think that means people like boring colors right now, although PPG Industries, which manufacturers automotive paint, assures us it's not the case:

"With more than two-thirds of cars in North America being black, silver or white, one might be inclined to believe that vibrant colors don't exist in automobiles anymore. But that's not true. The fact is that these shades continue to evolve. New advances in pigments and technologies are giving today's vehicles different textural appearances and iridescent sparkle," said Jane E. Harrington, PPG manager, color styling, automotive coatings.

Sorry, Jane E. Harrington, but I'm going to have to disagree. They might be a little shinier these days, but those colors are boring, especially compared to the 1994 survey, when green was the most popular color at 21 percent of new cars, with silver at only 8 percent. It's weird how color preference fluctuates, and what kind of strange subconscious factors might be driving it. Weirder still is that silver is tops abroad as well, with Europe and Asia having nearly identical color rankings to those in the U.S.

To be clear, I'm not knocking boring colors; my car's black and I think black and chrome is one of the all-time classic aesthetic combos for cars. And part of boring colors' popularity is just straight-up practicality. Cars with neutral colors are more likely to be acceptable to future buyers than more vivid hues, and so are more likely to get a good resale value when it's time to sell.

I'll go out on a limb and say that the safety of more conservative colors is appealing to a population plagued by anxiety during a decade of terrorism, war, high unemployment and near economic collapse.

What do you think? Why do today's car buyers love gray so much?

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Marcie Geffner
October 05, 2010 at 6:17 pm

I'm going to vote with you, Claes, and speculate also that a hoped-for higher resale value and general anxiety are behind the choice so many black, silver and white cars. I got rid of a beige car--a very dated color--a few years ago after 11 years of boring invisibility, and I absolutely love my bright red car that I bought used and have now.

October 05, 2010 at 5:27 pm

To be honest, I've always bought used cars, and price came before color. Because of this I've had burgundy, two dark green, and now I have a sky blue and tan car. I wait for the day that I can buy something sleek and lovely in a slate grey or pewter. It's timeless, it's classic, and if it's grey it doesn't show dirt as easily!