In 1909 Henry Ford said, “People can have the Model T in any color — so long as it’s black.” He would no doubt be amazed at the array of automotive colors available today. However, if you bought a new vehicle in 2012, there’s a good chance it was white.
According to automotive paint supplier PPG Industries, white remained the most popular color for new vehicles for the second consecutive year in 2012. The Pittsburgh-based company, which supplies auto paint to Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, BMW AG and other automakers, says that twenty-two percent of 2012 model year vehicles sold worldwide were white. Twenty percent were silver and 19 percent were black. Rounding out the top five most popular colors were gray and red.
Skewing the figures in favor of white was the fact that trucks accounted for 55 percent of vehicles produced in North America during the first eight months. A full 25 percent of those trucks were white because it serves as a neutral background for company logos. Nineteen percent of mid-sized passenger vehicles sold in North America were white.
PPG’s manager of automotive color styling, Jane Harrington, says white has experienced something of a renaissance over the past two years, replacing silver as the most popular auto color in 2011. Harrington says white has become synonymous with high-tech in large part due to Apple Inc., which uses the color extensively in its marketing and merchandising. Paint manufacturers have also developed an array of shades of white, from stark white to creamy pearl, for consumers to choose from.
According to Harrington, silver remains a popular color because “Silver looks great on any design.”
General Motors Company’s lead exterior paint color designer Michelle Killen says consumers tend to prefer “safer” colors like white, silver, gray and black during times of economic uncertainty because the intend to keep their vehicles longer. Killen says, “Buyers want to purchase a color they won’t grow tired of over an extended period of time.”
PPG says that color preferences also vary according to geography. For example, there are more red vehicles in North America than in other parts of the world, while tan and gold are more popular in Asia. Blue vehicles account for only about seven percent of autos worldwide.
Harrington says PPG takes its color cues from a variety of sources including interior design and fashion trends. The predominance of purple at a recent Paris interior design show influenced her to develop a purplish gray automotive paint. She says she expects consumers will begin to see more earth tones, including oranges and browns, in response to consumers’ increasing concern for the environment.