People who track car-color trends say a desire for new and expressive hues is heating up with an increased popularity of light metallic brown and blue as well as a resurgence of red.
“People are looking to express their individuality,” says Leatrice Eiseman, whose Color Answer Book includes a section on car colors.
Regardless, silver still is king of vehicle colors, according to the 52nd annual DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report.
That's obvious as I walk the floor of the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit where silver is the standard.
Of course, as a car color it's rarely called just “silver.” It goes by more elaborate names such as Sunlight Silver Metallic, Satellite Silver and Machine Silver Metallic.
All car colors go by multi-syllable, highly descriptive monikers that sound as if they came out of a creative writing class. Names such as Strato Blue Mica, Velocity Red Mica and Daytona Sunset Orange Metallic.
Prince once recorded a song called “Little Red Corvette.” If he were technically correct today, using the color chart for the '05 Corvette, the song would be entitled “Little Magnetic Red Metallic Corvette.” But that's a mouthful, even for Prince.
The auto show's Audi exhibit features slews of silver cars. In fact, the entire Audi display area — walls, pillars and floor-covering — is predominantly silver.
The Porsche exhibit features seven cars, one black and the rest silver. The Lexus display is a sea of silver and one red SC 430. Every car in the Acura display is silver except for a red RL in the corner.
General Motors rolled out a Saturn Aura concept car. It was silver. American Honda introduced its all-new Ridgeline pickup truck. Silver. Nissan unveiled an Azeal concept coupe. Silver.
Nissan design chief Bruce Campbell brightens when asked about the importance of car colors.
“Car colors are so emotional, the most emotional aspect of design,” he says.
Nissan can be out there with colors. It was on an orange kick last year. And, says Campbell, “The Xterra almost owns yellow.”
Is there any color Nissan won't use?
“I wouldn't look for any pink vehicles from us,” says Campbell.
Hey, pink used to be a cool car color. Aretha Franklin sang of driving her pink Cadillac. Elvis owned one. And Bruce Springsteen recorded a song titled “Pink Cadillac,” although officially today it probably would be “Mojave Desert Brilliant Sunset Pink Metallic Cadillac.”
Of the two cars on display at the Bentley exhibit, both are silver. For people unable to pony up $239,907 for a car, there are less-expensive Bentley accessories in a nearby display case: a silver clock, silver mug, silver flask (for potentially irresponsible driving) and silver ink well (for dipping that everyday household item, the quill pen).
“Silver is popular, although we call it Tungsten Silver,” says Steve O'Hara, a Bentley marketing representative. “It's an understated color, and people like understated colors more than they did in the past.”
True. Around the Edwardian era, Bentley sold a lot of yellow cars. Before the Nissan Xterra midsize SUV made the scene.
Another ultra-luxury car exhibit features two 2-tone Maybachs, one done up in Cote D'Azur Dark Blue and Himalaya Dark Gray; the other in Ayres Rock Red and Tiede Gray. That's rich talk for blue and gray and red and gray.
“You can combine any colors you like, even create your own colors,” says Leon Hustinx, director of Maybach sales and marketing.
That's the sort of customer service you get when dropping $357,000 on a car.
I ask GM CEO Rick Wagoner what his favorite car color is. Can you guess?
“I'm partial to silver,” he says. “My first car, a Chevrolet Camaro, was silver. I sold it because I was moving to New York to work for General Motors. I always thought it was ironic to sell a GM car because I was going to work for GM.”
Dealer Bill Cook, chairman of the silver-lined Detroit auto show, says he's sold many silver vehicles. He can't figure out why it's such a popular color.
“I always drive black cars with shiny chrome wheels,” he says. “But that's me.”
Steve Finlay is editor of Ward's Dealer Business. He can be reached at [email protected].