2005 DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report Finds Technology Drives Broader Palette

Color and Coatings Technologies includes DuPont™ Hot Hues™ for vehicle customizing; hue-shifting pigments and even reflective, "glow-in-the-dark" finishes.
Silver's six-year reign as the top vehicle color choice worldwide is being challenged by gray, now infused with an array of colors, and a stronger, bolder blue. DuPont Automotive's 2005 Color Popularity Report shows the trend toward mass personalization is upon us as a growing number of vehicle buyers indulge an increasing appetite for true color.

"The auto market is further pushing the envelope in color, recognizing that as many as 40 percent of consumers are likely to switch brands if they can't get the color they want," said Karen A. Surcina, color marketing and technology manager for DuPont Automotive Systems.

To help freshen and explore color opportunities through 2009, DuPont developed 100 new colors - even a coating technology that glows in the dark for safety - to present to automotive designers, under the theme "Appetite for Color."

"Advances in technology have allowed us to offer a much wider variety of colors and finishes than ever before," Surcina said. "And, in a reverse from the past, the automotive market is inspiring other markets' color choices, especially with its metallic and special-effect finishes."

Silver is Not Ready to Concede Defeat

Even as it wanes, silver's six-year reign as the world's most popular vehicle color is not yet over. Silver, which embraces many finishes, such as stainless steel, chrome and platinum, remains the emblematic color of new technology design and opulence.

"The mind thinks of silver as a precious metal, like gold, but more attainable," said award-winning color expert Leatrice Eiseman. "For example, Swarovski crystals are very hot right now and their influence is everywhere. Silver glistens, glimmers and sparkles. There's just something about the appeal of opulence."

Gray Gets Colorful, While Black and Blue Strengthen

While silver has declined in popularity in favor of chromatic shades, it also is giving way to medium-dark gray. Significant five-percent gains were seen in 2005 for gray in complex formulations that show an infusion of a variety of colors.

"Gray is branching out of silver," Surcina said. "Silver is brighter; it's a technology-driven color. Gray is a fresh version of silver, and we're seeing it infused with green, blue or even purple."

Black, often with metallic effects, also strengthened as the second most popular color in Europe and tops among luxury vehicles there. Over the next few years, jet black will increasingly be replaced with black metallic in North America. DuPont advances in scratch-resistant clearcoats will further make metallic black a top color choice.

"The importance of luxury is still represented by classic colors, such as black and silver," said Eiseman, author of The Color Answer Book (Capital Books, Inc., Sterling, Va.). "Black never goes away. It's so symbolic; it's sophisticated, elegant, classic, safe, dependable and classy."

In North America, blue is coming on strong with significant gains in the luxury, intermediate and compact/sport vehicle categories.

Overall, with minor shifts, blue, red and light metallic brown held the gains reported a year ago as startling yellows and oranges rounded out the top 10 colors in niche roles.

Color Trends to Watch for 2006-09

Consumers are demanding more choices in color in all areas of their life, including their vehicles. "Over the past few years, many buyers concerned about resale value stuck to safe colors, such as silver - although silver also represents technology and the future," Surcina sa id. "Now, consumers are ready to make a change, starting with infusions of color into neutrals."

To anticipate color trends, DuPont watches key indicators such as home and clothing fashions and consumer electronics. DuPont experts also participate in professional design organizations. The 2005 data collected by DuPont suggest the following trends:

  • Silver crossing over to new color spaces using tints of cool blue and green or warm, light brown metallic effects.

  • No longer just gunmetal, gray will be infused with more hues in red, blue and purple.

  • Stronger, chromatic color will be seen in light, medium and dark blues that are becoming particularly popular across vehicle segments.

  • Warmer reds will cross with orange to create new color spaces.

  • While deep brown has been periodically chosen as a luxury fashion color, new color highlights and grayed-off effects may finally push the color's attractiveness for more vehicle models by the year 2009.

    All this, plus the increasing acceptance of bright yellow and orange, shows the move toward mass personalization is here. And as smaller, more efficient vehicles gain market share, the need for colors that stand out will be even more apparent. Consumers are more discriminating and their appetite for color is increasing. They are proud of their vehicle choices and they want to be seen in distinctive colors, according to DuPont's Surcina.

    This is especially true for younger consumers. "Young people today are less rule-bound than their parents and grandparents were," said Eiseman, who heads the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training and is executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. "For them, fun equals vibrant colors and capturing attention."

    Science for Improved Productivity, Sales and Environment

    New technology is at the heart of creating new, durable colors and effects that are more efficient to apply yet command a higher price for a vehicle finish at the retail level. For example:

    New pigments: New pigment combinations, including those that create a hue-shift based on the viewing angle, will allow greater freedom for creating new, distinctive color spaces. "As tastefully selected colors become more varied, we'll continue to move toward mass customization," Surcina said.

    Expanded finish choices: Metallic and other finish effects are expanding. From conventional aluminum in coarse or fine particles to newer mica options, auto designers and stylists have more freedom to express unique effects in line with vehicle brand character. "There is a lot of thought put into the character of a brand, including how it relates to the finish on a particular vehicle," Surcina said. "Red isn't red on every vehicle. The shades and the names of the colors reflect the statement the vehicle is trying to make."

    Improved coatings: DuPont pioneered the first tri-coat finish, including basecoat, translucent mica pearl and clearcoat, using only one pass through the bake oven. Today, this award-winning wet-on-wet paint application technology has enabled economical two-tone paint jobs. Soon, a new "DuPont 3-Wet EcoConcept" technology could consolidate paint application lines for greater productivity and lower cost with major environmental benefits.

    Novel applications: DuPont keeps expanding what is possible to reduce paint line emissions while increasing the durability of coating systems. DuPont SuperSolids technology replaces solvent with up to 90 percent solids content for protective clear coats that not only dramatically reduce VOC emissions but also improve scratch and mar resistance by more than 60 percent. This technology won the U.S. EPA Clean Air Excellence Award in 2003.

    What Your Car Color Says About You

    Based on the DuPont Automotive rankings of most popular automotive colors in North America, here's what Color Answer Book author Leatrice Eiseman says vehicles are revealing about their owners' personalities:

    Silver: Elegant, loves futuristic looks, cool

    White: Fastidious

    Vibrant Red: Sexy, speedy, high-energy and dynamic

    Light to Mid-Blue: Cool, calm, faithful, quiet

    Dark Blue: Credible, confident, dependable

    Taupe/Light Brown: Timeless, basic and simple tastes

    Black: Empowered, not easily manipulated, loves elegance, appreciates classics

    Neutral Gray: Sober, corporate, practical, pragmatic

    Dark Green: Traditional, trustworthy, well-balanced

    Bright Yellow-Green: Trendy, whimsical, lively

    Yellow Gold: Intelligent, warm, loves comfort and will pay for it

    Sunshine Yellow: Sunny disposition, joyful and young at heart

    Deep Brown: Down-to-earth, no-nonsense

    Orange: Fun loving, talkative, fickle and trendy

    Deep Purple: Creative, individualistic, original

    Source: 2004 DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report.