Although white, silver and black dominate the global mass auto market, car enthusiasts around the world are leaning toward various treatments of blue, according to leading auto industry designers and a global team of DuPont color designers.

Emily Hung, DuPont color designer for the Asia Pacific region, says dark blue metallic is popular and is being fine-tuned for that region. Candy whites and tricoat pearl finishes also are extremely popular, confirming the 2007 DuPont Global survey finding that white had overtaken silver as the most popular color in Asia and North America. Luxury car buyers in Asia-Pacific countries continue to favor black and mid-tone metallic grays while champagne is favored over light silver in medium-size cars.

“In India and China, the booming economies are reflected in the wide range of colors offered to attract young buyers to compact cars,” Hung said.

Blue is the most important chromatic color in Europe, with 12% of the market, reports Elke Dirks, DuPont color designer for Europe. Chromatic colors are those with hue, unlike white, grey and black. “Black, which overtook silver in popularity in Europe last year, is seen as a trendy newcomer there and could double in volume,” Dirks said. Long-term, she predicts, European consumers will ask for a more colorful and individualistic palette from car makers. At the moment, though, preferences are highly influenced by ecological concepts, with demand growing for light, pure and sophisticated looks.

Wolstano Marin, DuPont color designer for Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, says the “achromatic range,” including white, silver, gray and black, dominates consumer preference in that area of Latin America. While green led the chromatic colors for several years, “blue now seems to be the most popular in that family,” he said. Personal preference, fashion and resale value seem to be the major factors contributing to car color choice in the region.

Blue also plays a role in American tastes, says Nancy Lockhart, DuPont color designer for North America. She sees lighter blues emerging with a reddish accent representing a clean, fresh trend. Medium and dark shades of blue are more greenish, evoking a modern feel. White tricoats such as pearls are chosen by buyers for their luxurious, yet unpretentious presentation. Oranges and golds are also important and reddish gold is an emerging influence, she said.

“While current economic conditions in North America are not being felt in car color choices, people are clearly being influenced by the ‘green’ movement, with natural versions of bold colors taking hold,” Lockhart said. “For example, copper seems to be replacing flashier gold finishes and royal blues will give way to lighter, cleaner and more water-like blues. Even white will change, with ultra whites and yellowish whites giving way to cleaner versions.”

“White seems to be the most prominent color on the road and on everyone’s mind in design,” said Mollie Engel, senior color designer for Kia Design Center America. “It is the new luxury color and it is also ecological. The lighter the colors we use, the less ‘solar gain’ is encouraged, and that means less gas we use to cool our cars.”

Economic uncertainty in North America seems to be influencing people to return to basics such as white and red, according to Engel, “but they are new versions of these common color spaces.” While Engel doesn’t see car buyers moving toward blue, she sees a growing importance of “olive greens” as well as earth tones such as dark grey, bronze and dark browns as “part of this new, classically modern palette.”

Christopher Webb, General Motors lead color and trend designer, interior and exterior, says “customers are embracing color again,” with brown, orange and blue selling well. Webb seeks first-hand color preference information from consumers by interacting with car enthusiasts at auto shows around the United States. He has also done several GM blogs on color.

GM takes consumer input seriously. Several years ago, Webb polled Corvette Car Club members to find out which color they would most like to see on their vehicles. Their request for orange came at a time when an “orange trend” was developing in other areas of product design. The result was a color, developed with DuPont, called “Atomic Orange.”

“Blue will continue to be strong in the marketplace along with a growing trend in natural and authentic colors,” said Jim Parker, senior manager, color and trim design, Chrysler LLC. “The 2009 Dodge Ram will be offered in several new colors like Deep Water Blue Pearl and Austin Tan Pearl, which will accentuate its distinctive, bold design and reflect these color trends.”

Although he has not yet seen any economy-related trends in consumer color choices, consumer buying tends to lean toward more conservative choices during economic downturns. Regardless of the economy, says Parker, Chrysler®, Dodge® and Jeep® offer a wide variety of color choices, allowing consumers to express their own personalities.

Aftermarket color choices, such as those selected for custom cars and high-end restorations, are also highly individualistic, but don’t conform to color trends seen in the new car market, according to Janine Little, marketing manager for the DuPont™ Hot Hues™ line of automotive finishes.

“Economic conditions don’t seem to have a huge effect on custom car enthusiasts,” Little said. “Some people save their money to take dream vacations - car enthusiasts save to build their dream cars.”

Some colors are more expensive than others because of the pigments needed to produce the right color - mostly in the red and silver ranges, Little said. “But to these enthusiasts, spending more on the perfect color for your car is a sacrifice worth enduring. They are also willing to pay for the newest coatings technologies, such as special metallic flakes and candy colors, to differentiate their vehicles and give them personality.”

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