White is the new black…so to speak. When it comes to the colors that American motorists tend to prefer, white has traditionally taken a back seat to black and silver. But it has been gaining ground lately, taking over as the most popular automotive hue in some recent studies.
Credit Apple, says Sandy McGill, chief designer for BMW DesignWorks, who believes the Silicon Valley giant’s iPhones and iPads have had a direct influence on the choice consumers make when buying cars, as well.
McGill offers kudos to the late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs for transforming the public mindset. “Prior to Apple, white was associated with things like refrigerators or the tiles in your bathroom. Apple made white valuable,” the designer told Motoramic.com.
White has always been popular in Japan – indeed, it’s still the overwhelming choice there. But it had faded from the U.S. sales charts, in part, because it can be so difficult to maintain. It doesn’t take much dirt to send an owner scurrying for the car wash.
Silver and black, on the other hand, have been the colors of choice among automotive designers because they do such a good job of showing off a car’s curves. Silver also is closely associated with luxury, buyers opting for its various hues to make their vehicles look a little more upscale.
Together with white, they make up as much as 80% of the general automotive market in the typical year, with reds a favorite among sports car buyers. But experts like McGill, who oversees color, materials and finish choices for the BMW styling subsidiary, thinks the American color palette is going to change.
What shades are brightening up? McGill and other experts list blue, orange and brown, among others. Yes, brown, though not the flat, dull and boring hue that many experts had, just a few years ago, been predicting would vanish entirely from the automotive showroom. Porsche delivered a shock when it highlighted a red-toned, metal-flaked brown with the launch of the new 911 last year.
There’s even an active Facebook group, The Brown Car Appreciation Society, of which this reporter is one of 600 active members.
In its annual forecast of color trends, paint supplier BASF Automotive Coatings said it anticipates a surge of “naturally cultivated” tones, including “nuanced” berry and copper hues, as well as brown, blue and green – though the latter three will come in more subtle and organic versions of the traditional earth shades.
“There are signs from automakers and consumers that the desire for more color on the roads is continuing. We will be tapping into further color spaces, such as bronzes and emeralds,” says Gutjahr. “The continued high value assigned to the notion of ecology may now again be signified by the color green.”
Predicting color trends is as much an art as a science and researchers look for all sort of indicators to figure out what shades will connect with consumers, including trends in the fashion industry. But colors also are influenced by factors such as:
- What you drive – demand is very different for sports cars and luxury sedans;
- Where you live – blacks aren’t very popular in Sunbelt states but it’s the color of choice in New York, for example, and Japanese consumers overwhelmingly prefer white;
- Even the state of the economy is a factor, buyers tending to opt for conservative shades during recessions while adopting more vibrant hues when times are good.