If you've managed to follow our ongoing coverage of the Los Angeles Auto Show, you might have noticed a trend: While the cars themselves are practical, inexpensive, and more compact this year, for smaller or sportier cars, bright and pastel colors are very much back in vogue on the auto-show floor.
Whether we're talking about the bright-orange Subaru XV Crosstrek, the brilliant pastel blue of the Shelby GT500, or the retro-looking School Bus Yellow of the Mustang Boss 302, the attention-getting orange-yellow of the new 2012 Ford Focus ST, or the pastel hues of the 2013 Chevrolet Spark (including a very femme lilac metallic), automakers are tapping into the entire palette.
2012 Ford Focus ST live photos
The trend is a few years in the making, for sure; but there's a curious disconnect between the bright, sometimes garish hues we've tended to see on auto-show concepts and the more sedate tones that remain popular at dealerships.
The scene is quite different at the auto malls, where silver, gray, black, and white are still the most popular choices. In fact, together, these colors make up a whopping 55 percent of the global vehicle market, according to the latest data from the 2011 DuPont Global Automotive Color Popularity Report, released today. Globally, blue red and blue are a distant fourth and fifth, making up 13 percent combined, with green, yellow, and gold hues way down the list, at just 3 percent combined.
2013 Chevrolet Spark shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011
White has been a longtime favorite in the North American market—especially in the South—but it's been catching on in other global markets at a faster rate over the past several model years. White is also seen as one of the emerging top colors for luxury, in addition to silver and black—especially classic white, or the newer pearlescent white hues. Yet in Europe, according to DuPont, its seen as the color for ecological choices, corresponding with minimalism and future tech.
Meanwhile, black is falling out of vogue in China, as silver topped the market, blue was on the increase, and other colors gained popularity. But in South Korea, silver, white, and black add up to 70 percent of the market. White is also a very popular color in South Africa, at 40 percent, while black is the top color in Russia, at 23 percent. Silver remains at the top in South America and Brazil.
While the DuPont survey suggests that consumer demand has much to do with the color trend; this piece in Slate says that there's another component: that cars today are painted more subdued, boring colors due to today's base-coat, clearcoat processes, and increased standards of durability. Those flatter, yet iridescent and metallic hues of the past simply wouldn't hold up, some paint experts argue.
Automakers and designers tend to show concepts in attention-getting 'fringe' colors, with the production versions of those concepts often showing up with those one or two extreme shades plus a more conservative palette. As with the rust reds and sage greens of a few model years ago, we've seen more daring colors break through with new models, then fade away after a short time.
2011 DuPont Global Automotive Color Popularity Report - U.S. market