“Conservative Differentiation” Among Consumers May Be Sign of the Times

The 2008 DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report says white is the top vehicle color choice in North America for the second straight year, and is a strong player globally, with “white effects” allowing consumers to differentiate cars subtly to express their individuality. Black and silver with effects also turned in a strong performance globally. The term “effects” refers to special pigments that lend a pearl or iridescent appearance to coatings.

White and white pearl scored 16 and 4 percent, respectively, black and black effect scored 11 percent and 6 percent, while silver, which led the pack for six consecutive years, garnered a 17 percent share of the North American market.

A leading supplier of coatings to the global automotive market both for new cars and in the collision repair industry, DuPont this year broadened the global scope of the authoritative Automotive Color Popularity Report to include specific data from emerging markets India and Russia. The automotive industry is expanding rapidly in both countries.

North American color choice highlights several trends. First, there is a continuing convergence of color choice globally with color preferences becoming more homogeneous across the globe. Additionally, DuPont continues to report white as a “palette cleansing” color signaling a pause after a long running trend and in advance of a new trend. The 2007 DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report announced the end of silver’s seven-year reign.

“We’re seeing basic colors like black, white and silver continuing in the lead but consumers are looking for differentiation with tri-coat and other effects,” said Karen Surcina, Color Marketing Manager, DuPont Performance Coatings. “These colors and effects provide a higher degree of customization and luxury-effect, which allow consumers a conservative differentiation from the traditional color palette.” A tricoat paint system consists of a basecoat, a mid-layer, which contains the color and specialized “effect” pigments, followed by a clearcoat.

“While black, white and silver continue to remain strong, we are seeing interesting trends developing,” Surcina continued. “The popularity of true chromatic colors such as blue and red are on the rise, with blue growing worldwide as consumers look to more environmental themes and lifestyles.”

“Blue is being utilized as the “new green” because it is well understood by people all over the world that blue can also represent the preservation of nature,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of Color: Messages and Meanings. “Imagine a clear blue sky mirrored in a pristine blue lake and you will get the picture. It is a universal favorite.”

Global Convergence and Regional Differentiation

The global review of color popularity reveals that preferences are converging around the world, but within the convergence there is subtle differentiation between markets. As DuPont reported in June 2008, blue is becoming more popular and, currently ranks among consumers in North America with 13 percent of the overall market. Blue has garnered 12 to 13 percent of the market for the past few years and is a top five color choice in every market with the exception of Brazil.

“Neutral colors like silver and light gray shades capture a high volume, but long term they show a decreasing tendency in almost all regions,” said Nancy Lockhart, DuPont Color Designer for North America. “Moving forward, it will be imperative to refresh styling of these popular colors with different effects that can restore their popularity.”

Europe is dominated by the popularity of black vehicles in all segments. Black with effect, white/white pearl and silver are most popular across the board with a rise in bright reds in this year’s report. The rankings remain consistent for black/black effect with 26 percent of the market, silver with 20 percent and gray with 18 percent.

White/white pearl saw a slight increase in popularity, rising from 8 percent last year to 10 percent in 2008. The warm neutral tones of beige and brown regained popularity in 2008, reaching 4 percent -up from 2 percent last year.

“Current preferences are strongly influenced by ecological concepts, with demand growing for light, pure and sophisticated looks and the strength of blue showing optimism for the future,” said Elke Dirks, DuPont color designer for Europe. “In the long term, we believe that European consumers will ask for a more colorful and individualistic palette from car makers.”

Russian color preference shows an overwhelming use of silver at 30 percent, black and red at 14 percent and slight differences between green (13 percent), blue (12 percent) and white (10 percent). Though Russia leans toward the silver and black color spaces, red and green are more popular there than in any other region, demonstrating the diversity of color trends.

India’s market shows a strong preference toward white and white pearl with 17 and 11 percent respectively, followed by silver with 27 percent. As in Russia, strong chroma colors made a good showing with red at 12 percent and blue at 8 percent. Black and black effect with 6 percent and 1 percent, respectively, was even with yellow and gold at 7 percent.

Silver remains exceptionally strong in the Asian countries of China, South Korea, Japan and India. In South Korea silver represents 50 percent of the market, up from 39 percent last year. Silver is top color with strong growth shown in China as well at 32 percent for 2008, up from 23 percent in 2007. Japan and India report white/white pearl in the top color position (8 and 24 percent and 17 and 11 percent, respectively) with silver making a strong showing with 28 percent in Japan and 27 percent in India.

 “Candy white and tri-coat pearl are extremely popular in most of the Asia Pacific area,” said Emily Hung, DuPont color designer for the Asia Pacific region. “In Japan we see an overwhelming preference for white pearl or white with effect.

“In India and China we see a wide range of colors offered to attract young buyers to compact cars,” Hung said. “Additionally, dark blue metallic is popular and we’re fine-tuning a variety of shades for the region.”

Mexico and Brazil
White and black are tied for the most popular color in Mexico at 20 percent each, with silver at 17 percent and gray at 13 percent. Following these cool-neutral shades, blue shows strength with 12 percent and red follows at 11 percent. Neutral spaces dominate Brazil with silver (31 percent), black (25 percent), gray (16 percent) and white (11 percent). Red is the most popular chroma color with 8 percent of the market.