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DuPont Says Car Colors Getting Sexy

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2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet

2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet

Silver has surged in automotive palette popularity in recent years, but its years as the popular 'safe' choice may be numbered.In North America, hues of silver, along with white and black are in a virtual dead heat for first place among exterior colors for new cars, with white and white pearl paint covering more than a quarter of new trucks and SUVs. Car wash investors, are you listening?

Neutral colors with added effects — like white pearl and black metallic— are the hot thing the year according to DuPont. White pearl is growing most rapidly, but the company also predicts that black metallic will rise in popularity. And red in turn is also poised for growth. But silver is finally on the way out of favor; unlike the yearly trends for the precious metal, it declined by five percent since DuPont's 2006 report.

Globally, the same hues are in favor, but the mix is slightly different. China prefers black and silver, and nearly 40 percent of the South Korean market goes for silver. In Europe, a quarter of all cars are black, though black metallic is growing along with more vibrant basic colors like red and blue.

That's the short story behind DuPont's annual Global Color Popularity Report; but there's change afoot.

“The rise in popularity of white/white pearl and the long reign of silver suggest that we can expect a more dramatic shift in the top color choice,” said Karen Surcina, DuPont Automotive Systems' color marketing and technology manager, in the company's release.

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, provided a deeper and more psychologically suggestive assessment of the reasons behind white's popularity: “It follows the global trends in furnishings, fashion, consumer products, and industrial design where we're seeing a return to white as a clarifying agent before change, a color of purity and minimalism.”

Ah, so we're seeking a cleanse from our whites before we change our ways? Sounds like an obtuse reference to the public's pervading sentiment regarding national politics. We won't go any further.

And white pearl, along with black metallic and other 'color effects,' looks to be our gateway color back to more vibrant hues. Red has grown about two percent globally in the past year, signaling the beginning of a trend. Again, in a comment that could be taken out of context, the company expects a continued rise in the popularity of red and a “more vividly colored outlook in nearly all segments.”

“Red, in particular, is a popular choice with people who want to express a level of individuality with their vehicles, said Surcina. “We see the growth of vibrant colors — red and orange — as an option for those interested in mass customization — the choice to personalize a mass-produced object.”

But in the mean time, these effects hues, incorporating pearlescents, metallics, and hue-shifting finishes, provide “a safe color space for customers with the ability to add a level of customization of flair,” according to Surcina.

Because we all want to play it safe, right?

Seriously, we're glad to hear that the not-so-distant future involves not psychedelic or pastel hues but a little more brilliance.

-- Bengt Halvorson
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