BASF Coatings’ Color Trend Forecast
DuPont Automotive Color Forecast
2006 Color Popularity Survey Results Released by PPG Industries

Michaela Finkenzeller

BASF Coatings' Color Trend Forecast
New colors and shades of white will be keeping drivers up to date.

After silver and black, white has the potential to be the third most significant color on the global automotive market, declared BASF Coatings’ color stylists Michaela Finkenzeller, Sandra Mathia (North America) and Eiji Fujimori (Asia-Pacific) at the presentation of their traditional annual color trend forecast. They announced new shades of white that will attract attention on the roads. Teams in the design centers and labs of BASF Coatings are working on solid-color and metallic paints, as well as special colors like white with soft mica effects, white with extreme sparkle, or white in variants with gradated hues such as cream colors and silver-white. White is classy and likely to be a trendsetter, for instance, in additional layers of clearcoat containing a light gold shimmer or as an exclusive matte white. What makes this all possible are new pigments and manufacturing processes that are making heads turn when it comes to surface texture, haptics and effects. According to the forecast, white will not only be making its mark in the exclusive and premium vehicle category, but will be setting the stage for small- and mid-size cars in the long-term as well.

            A combination of matte and high-gloss effects in the area of white is particularly sophisticated. What counts are subtle differences and a passion for details, and this applies to color, surfaces and haptics as well. “The interplay between a white exterior and a coordinated interior is particularly eye-catching,” says Finkenzeller. “White is actually a very distinctive color. In the automotive sector in particular, it stands out from the crowd.”

Twenty years ago, the color white had a 20% share of the market on German and European roads. In Germany, this share has fallen to 2 to 3%. In Southern Europe, however, the figure is currently much higher. In Italy, for example, one out of three cars leaving the dealerships is white. In general, the farther south you go, the lighter the color of the cars on the road.

            In Japan, white is considered to be the color of purity and clarity. Twenty-seven percent of all car buyers there go for white.

Color trend of BASF Coatings, “Unglaced Porcelain”

The Roots of the Great White Comeback

BASF Coatings’ color stylists and researchers have been observing a manifestation of the white trend for about two years. It’s not just hype or a short-term trend, but rather a metatrend that is making its way through all areas of design and everyday culture. Fashion, furniture and consumer electronics are all pioneers in the white revolution. One of the best-known examples is the iPod. “From the point of view of society, the new trend toward white is rooted in the search for new values,” adds Finkenzeller. Silver, the metatrend of the last decade, represented this kind of value, but generally stood for infatuation with technology, belief in the future and inviolability. While the high-tech trend was ground-breaking, it was not a panacea. “We’re searching for new approaches, new solutions and new values,” says Finkenzeller. This search is being expressed by designers’ color collections and the end consumers’ predilections for certain colors. White stands for a focus on the essential, “a new aesthetic purism”, as BASF color stylist Finkenzeller puts it. Yet white is also something special and exclusive. “White that is worth loving and taking care of as opposed to low-maintenance silver is another way to describe it,” adds Finkenzeller. It’s a matter of emotions versus uniformity and pure functionality.

The “White Forecast”

 In 2006, dark colors or light shades of silver dominated the German roads. Over 45% of newly registered cars were silver. One in four cars was black, and one in six was blue. Only 15% of newly registered cars were red, green or some other color. Red had a hard time of it again in 2006. Back in 1980, 26% of the newly registered cars were red, while in 2006 the figure had dropped to 4.5%.

This trend has been observed all over the world. According to BASF Coatings, approximately 30% of all cars in Europe and Asia are silver, followed by black and blue. The UK and Poland have bucked the trend, however. In the UK, the preferred color is blue, while one out of four vehicles in Poland is painted brown.

In North America, one out of five cars is silver. The global trend toward silver is attributed to rental car agencies and purchasers of company car fleets, who prefer neutral colors. BASF’s statistics show that these colors are even more prominent in the upper price range. “So-called premium or luxury-class vehicles are traditionally less colorful,” says color stylist Finkenzeller. However, Finkenzeller observes that white is a very interesting color in this segment, especially considering that at fairs increasing numbers of cars in these classes are presented in shades of white, which piques both dealers’ and end consumers’ interest in and desire for this color. According to Finkenzeller, however, white will not be toppling silver’s dominance on the automotive market.

What Colors Are Still In?

There is a trend toward mixed shades that combine colors such as green, blue and gray. For instance, adding turquoise effects can lend blue a mysterious touch, and subtle pearl gloss gives a pale greenish-gray a fascinating shimmer. Even silver is becoming more colorful. Increasingly, blue, green or brown are being added to silver. Finkenzeller reports that the range of colors and effects presented by the new shades is often not revealed until the finish is exposed to just the right incident of light. She adds that silver will also be complemented by other metallic colors. Copper, bronze, gold and platinum will be giving car bodies a new pizzazz. A sense of class will now be defined by a wide range of colors, which will fulfill the customers’ rising demand for individuality.

Trend: Sensuality, a Haptic Experience

BASF Coatings’ paint technologies offer more than just a colorful feast for the eyes. New surfaces ensure that the other senses are delighted as well. Matte effect and soft-touch evoke a haptic experience and a completely new point of access to the automobile as an icon for technology. At fairs, many of the visitors were observed touching the satin-finished surfaces of the cars.

Of course, for every trend there is a counter-trend. In contrast to matte clearcoat, there is also a trend toward mirror effects and pure reflection. The two extremes, however, are not mutually exclusive, but open up new possibilities for combining materials, colors and surfaces in the automobile’s interior, as well as on its exterior.

Color Counts When Buying a Car

Color plays a significant role when consumers buy cars. Over 40% of them can imagine switching makes if the dealer doesn’t have the color they want in stock. Design is a major factor in purchasing a car. The language of color and form, materials and unexpected details are considered to be of increasing importance.

The BASF Coatings’ color stylists learn about trends in colors and materials, as well as ideas and inspirations at venues like international fairs featuring textiles, fashion, furniture or interior design. Since the trends in these areas are significantly shorter-lived and more varied than in the automotive sector, they need to be filtered and translated when it comes to colors for car exteriors. After all, the complicated technical development and comprehensive tests, like weathering tests, mean that it takes two to three years until an idea for a color makes its way from the lab out onto the roads. On top of that, a color has to continue to please its owner even after years of driving. This requires employees at BASF Coatings’ design centers to be light years ahead of the current trends. They also need to observe the sociocultural developments throughout the world in order to make intercultural comparisons, since the customers, and BASF along with them, operate globally. This entails lots of reading, traveling, research and observing all areas that have an impact on daily life and moods, including art, architecture, politics, fashion, music and innovations. When it comes down to it, colors are nothing other than codes that provide access to this general state.

DuPont Automotive Color Forecast: Silver Reigns; Red and Orange Are Hot

For the seventh consecutive year, silver has held its lead as the predominant color choice for vehicles globally, with vibrant colors such as red and orange registering noticeable growth around the world, according to DuPont Automotive’s 2006 Color Popularity Report.

Since overtaking green in 2000, silver has held the top spot - the longest of any color during the 54 years DuPont has been tracking automotive vehicle color choice. However, there has been a broadening of the range of tones in silver and in gray, another top choice. The trend for the future includes the infusion of these neutral colors with greens, reds and purples, which provides customers a broader palette of choices.

“We are seeing a growing convergence in color preference globally,” said Karen Surcina, Color Marketing and Technology Manager, DuPont Automotive Systems. “But while the world is becoming flatter and tastes are harmonizing globally, we think that it is also important to look deeply at the cultural and taste differences in large and growing markets, such as Asia.”

By way of illustration, Japan’s color choices remain consistent with last year’s overall Asian results where neutrals were dominant with silver at 27%, white/white pearl 24%, black 16% and gray12 %. The chroma color of blue rounds out the top five overall with 10% of the market.

Typically the bottom half of the top 10 colors point to the growth trend for future colors. A clear trend for the future includes warmer tones such as red as well as the continued strength of blue. Blue and red have strengthened their positions as popular vehicle colors in North America, each with 11% share and in China with 17% share for blue and 9% share for red. Blue remains a top choice in Europe with a 13% share overall and a top-three color choice in the compact/sport segment with a 15% share.

The stronger showing of higher-chroma colors throughout the world points to a desire by consumers for more personalization of their vehicles. This boldness allows for smaller vehicles to make a strong statement and is most evident in the compact/sport segment, where globally, red and orange have seen a large upswing, notably in the three Asian markets and in North America. Red surfaced as the top color choice in the compact vehicle segment in South Korea, with 22% as well as in the North American market compact/sport category, from 9% in 2005 to 15% in 2006.

Black remains a top choice across the global landscape. It is among the top five colors in the regions examined and has gained ground in specific segments in North America. The 2006 color popularity report sees growth of black in the North American luxury segment with 22%, mirroring black’s longstanding first place among European luxury vehicles with 37%. These gains in North America closely follow the European acceptance and growth of metallic black. Black has also gained ground in the intermediate vehicle segment in North America.

Silver Starts to Shift, but Remains Top North American Vehicle Color in 2006, According To PPG Industries
Blues and browns emerge, and silver evolves as paint technology continues to advance.

The color silver has topped the automotive color charts once again this year, maintaining its supremacy as the most popular car color in North America. But in the future it will take on a fresh appearance as blues, browns and greens start to surge and become infused with silver to create a new look, according to the 2006 color popularity survey results released by PPG Industries.

Silver surpassed all colors among North American vehicles produced in the 2006 model year with 24%, down 2% from last year. Silver also remained the leading color for 2006 in all North American vehicle segments, with the highest share (29%) in the luxury category.

“Silver remains number one, but it’s evolving beyond the old parameters,” said Jane E. Harrington, Manager, Color Styling, Automotive Coatings for PPG. “We’re going to see more graphite hues, and silver will shift to become a more complex color with subtle undertone tints of brown, blue, green and gold.

“Silver is going to remain popular. It’s a preferred hue because it defines character lines and features on the exterior of a vehicle better than a darker color,” Harrington said. “But blue is going to start grabbing some of silver’s market share. Both pure tones and light values of blue are going to be strong, emerging color trends within the next few years.”

Additional research conducted by PPG reveals that for the 2006 model year in North America, white was the second most popular color at 16%, holding steady from last year. Black and red tied for third at 13% each, followed by blue at 12%. Naturals, which include light metallic beige, copper, orange and brown, also came in at 12%. Green captured 7% and niche and specialty colors accounted for 3%.

A chart showing color popularity results for 2006.

New Colors for 2009-2010 Model Year

The PPG Global Design and Color Marketing Team, which consists of colorists in North America, South America, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, China, Malaysia, India and Australia, developed 110 new concept colors for consideration by automotive designers for the 2009-2010 model years.

“In addition to blue, the natural color family is going to be an area of growth for the automotive market,” Harrington said. “This new trend is based on the consumer’s desire for handcrafted-looking products that are authentic and exclusive.”

Harrington said she believes brighter colors are working their way back after years of silver, black and white dominating the popularity charts.

“Color is one of the first things someone notices about a vehicle. It redefines the shape and styling of a car and brings it to life,” she said. “We see color inching back into the mainstream. Hues are being reinvented as they’re influenced by new shades, new coating technologies and special effects.”

“Aluminum flakes continue to be a major component of new colors due to their brightness and size variety. They allow us to formulate colors with exceptional travel and remarkable effect,” said Jerry R. Koenigsmark, Manager of Color Design, North America, automotive coatings for PPG. “Another way PPG is showing creativity is with a tri-coat process, where a layer of clearcoat is applied over a pigmented layer of mid-coat and a solid or metallic base coat. We’re developing a more colorful mid-coat layer, which we’re hoping will open up a whole new technology palette to designers.”

The Global Design and Color Marketing Team combines research on global automotive, interior design, fashion, product design, contract and consumer markets, architectural coatings, cosmetics and packaging with insight about regional influences and knowledge of new technologies to gain a better understanding of international color preferences.