White, black, gray and silver once again are the most popular vehicle color choices, but a few unlikely hues are climbing the charts, according to the annual PPG Industries color survey.
Golds, beiges, yellows, oranges and browns, although still far behind the dominant colors, have gained in popularity, says Jane Harrington, PPG manager-color styling, automotive OEM coatings.
“A color range that we call natural, the oranges, browns and golds, are growing in all regions, but particularly in Europe, which is interesting,” she tells WardsAuto of the colors that have been selected by automakers for models in the near future. “We’ll start to see that growth in the next year or so.”
In North America, 10% of vehicles manufactured in 2014 were coated in natural hues, with brown in particular growing in popularity in midsize cars and SUVs. In Europe, natural shades now account for 12% of vehicle production, the study indicates.
Globally, white ranks first, up 3% from last year to 28%, while black, silver and gray follow with 13% shares each. Although it remains popular, silver has slipped, dropping 7% globally over the past two years.
“Part of that (decline) is a lot of color palettes for car lines offer silver and gray, and we’re seeing a division there even between the two colors,” Harrington says.
Color popularity varies between vehicle segments. Sports cars, for example, continue to be the most likely to feature red, blue or green, as all three of those shades overtook gray and silver in the current rankings.
In the luxury segment, 24% of vehicles are white, but those models also are the most likely to feature effect finishes, such as metallic or pearl tri-coat.
“Luxury vehicles usually have a limited palette,” Harrington says. The segment is “pretty well divided between black and white, with gray second.”
For midsize vehicles, blue remains consistent at 10%, but the study says earth-tone colors such as brown are gaining ground.
Compact cars are most likely to be coated in shades of blue, green and red, although oranges are emerging in the segment.
White is the most popular color on trucks and utility vehicles, although black metallic and solids are more preferred by automakers on trucks.
Some automakers think outside the box with their color choices, including Hyundai with its matte-finish offering on the Veloster and Mini with its two-tone schemes.
Harrington says matte finishes remain a very small part of the market because they need special care, particularly when being washed. Two-tone paint jobs, she says, only work on particular vehicle types among manufacturers looking to stand out from the rest of the pack.
“Mini has been best example of two-tone colors and you’re seeing a little bit on the Fiat 500,” she says. “That’s more of a European look vs. North American and certain vehicles lend themselves to that more.”
She says color popularity on vehicles often is influenced by trends in other industries, including architecture and fashion, both of which are studied by the automotive designers who choose the palettes for vehicle lineups.
“Those consumer markets all have a play on the colors that are being developed, and do influence future colors, because automotive designers have to select two to three years before the current calendar year,” she says. “We’re seeing the influence of real metal-type colors from industrial design.”