May 5, 2003
Audio Version 278KB RealPlayer
All the colors of the rainbow, and some shades not found in Nature, those are the choices offered Americans buying new cars these days. The auto industry has come a long way from the early 20th century, when Henry Ford offered his Model-T in one "flavor": black.
Silver and its variations are, by far, the most popular exterior finish for new cars in North America, South America and Europe, accounting for 23 percent of new vehicles sold. Bob Daily, color marketing manager for the major auto paint producer Dupont Performance Coatings, explains why. "Silver is really a very stylish-looking color. I think, it's what people equate to things like precision and performance," he says.
Mr. Daily said silver goes well with the new, "edgier" car designs. "We're getting away from that "carved bar of soap" [design] that we had in the 80s and 90s into more chiseled looks, more edgy looks. Those kinds of designs are enhanced by colors like silver, as well as black and some of the other colors that are quite popular right now," he says.
Black is currently number three in popularity. What's second to silver? "White has been a perennially popular color in the North American market. It's probably Number Two overall. But, surprisingly, over the past five or six years, black has come up considerably in popularity," says Mr. Daily.
Dupont's Bob Daily says shades of metallic red show up often on luxury, sports and compact cars. "It's one of those staple colors that doesn't seem to have huge transitions from one year to the next. But it's holding at around that six to eight, maybe 10-percent range [of the market]," he says.
As one color fades, no pun intended, another is on the rise, according to Mr. Daily. "When green became popular in the early 90s, blue kind of dropped off the market for quite awhile. And what we're seeing is blue coming back, either shades of dark, inky, sort of navy blues transitioning even into the lighter, brighter blues," he says.
Just a few years ago, says Bob Daily, there were clear differences in colors chosen by car buyers in Asia, Europe and North America. Now, with the advent of the global society and instant communication, those cultural differences are disappearing. And silver is the dominant choice from Berlin to Beijing.