At BASF's annual "Color Trends" exhibits and meetings for automotive-industry color designers, the company's color experts unveiled the findings of an analysis of trends in automotive color preferences. They say that car buyers will look to shake the "conservative, comforting" colors of the past few years in favor of more "lively, exuberant and exotic" colors.

Forecasters say the "hot" colors coming down the road reflect auto buyers' interest in more festive and exciting colors, as opposed to the current predominance of traditional silvers, grays and whites.

"Blues will continue to grow in popularity, but will be richer and more jewel-like," says Jon Hall, manager of color development for BASF's Automotive Coatings business in North America. "Reds, which have bottomed out in popularity, will enjoy a modest revival, but in bluer and deeper shades. Today's popular browns will shift toward orange hues and shades. We also foresee the emergence of dark, mysterious colors-dark blue, reds, coppers and grays."

Hall says BASF's forecast also strongly suggests heightened demand for sparkle, glitter and more metallic coatings, effects that are figuring prominently in the company's research and development programs. In response, he says the company is focusing on the development of two new automotive finishes: a powder coating that creates a brilliant metallic effect previously attainable only with more expensive tri-coat liquid systems and a coating that incorporates unique arrangements of microscopic aluminum flakes to produce novel holographic colors.

The holographic finishes are designed to reflect subtle rainbow-like highlights and create the illusion of three-dimensional depth, and will appeal directly to car buyers' fascination with more glitz, Hall says.

"The emerging trend seems to be a celebration of things new-a visual expression of the language of the Internet, wireless connectivity, software and dazzling technologies," Hall says.