Automotive-color trend watchers at DuPont Co. and PPG, echoing predictions issued earlier by BASF, say color choices will shift dramatically in the coming years as new effects and shades mark a departure from the recent dominance of silver and white.

The companies agree that silver remained the top vehicle color choice worldwide in 2003, with silver-colored vehicles accounting for more than 20% of the autos and light trucks sold. But major coatings suppliers all see dramatic changes on the horizon for the automotive-color spectrum.

The DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report said that in North America, rich shades of medium-dark metallic gray increased significantly in popularity in 2003, while red and other "high-chroma" colors hint at major changes to come. For the near-term, however, DuPont and PPG see silver retaining its popularity, albeit with a twist or two.

"Silver will define the first decade of the new millennium," said Lorene C. Boettcher, PPG manager, Global Design and Color Marketing, Automotive Coatings. "The sophisticated and high-tech look of silver, its ability to accentuate a vehicle's design and advances in coatings technologies that drive the creation of new interpretations of silver will help maintain its popularity for the next several years."

In a forecast of color trends down the road, PPG's Boettcher said that in the 2007-2008 model year, silver will become more complex with blue and gold influences, and will incorporate fine to coarse metallic flakes to add sparkle effects.

Various effect technologies are also expected to result in novel approaches to automotive-color choices. "The use of new effect pigments and various sizes of metallic and aluminum flakes will give colors a sense of visual texture and depth," said Jerry R. Koenigsmark, PPG's manager of Color Design, North America, Automotive Coatings. "We also expect that hue-shifting colors - which appear to change in hue when viewed at different angles - will gain acceptance in subtle versions within the natural and neutral color families."

In its assessment of current color choices, DuPont said white pearl tri-coats introduced by the company offer distinctive fine or coarse sparkle effects for higher-end vehicles. The company says the technology also complements warmer or cooler tinted silvers and tinted clearcoats for reds to provide colors that appear deeper, richer and more luxurious.

DuPont said more expressive colors such as bright blues, reds and even yellows indicate an increased sense of adventure among consumers and automotive stylists. In fact, yellow has emerged as a top-10 color in the sport/compact segment, the company said.