Move over, silver. After more than a decade as the world's favorite car colour, silver is falling in popularity to white. PPG Industries, the leading supplier of automotive paints, says 25 per cent of the vehicles it supplied in the 2013 model year were white, up 3 per cent from the prior year. Silver and black tied for second, with 18 per cent each.
White dominates in Europe, North America and Asia. Only in South America is silver still king.
Apple Inc., with its all-white stores and gadgets, made white a high-tech colour. The variety of whites — from flat shades to creamy pearls — is also contributing, says Jane Harrington, PPG's manager of automotive colour styling.
But if you don't relish a whiteout on the freeway, never fear. Automakers are currently scouting colours for the 2016 and 2017 model years, and Harrington is showing them some eye-popping options, from a pink-tinged bright red developed in Asia to a rich dark gray with faint green highlights.
Eleven different browns — from light copper to dark chocolate — and an equal number of grays are part of PPG's annual colour show for automakers at its automotive center in the Detroit suburb of Troy. There are six yellows and seven greens, from seafoam to dark olive. One notable absence: Powder blue, which is increasingly confined to electric cars or hybrids.
Harrington and her international team determine colour trends by watching fashion, architectural paint colours and other predictors. She thinks we'll see more deep jewel tones like teal and more earthy metallics, like reddish orange, in the coming years. With the end of the recession, drivers don't mind being showy again, she says.
Car buyers could also see taxi-like yellows and other flat, bright colours, which are growing in popularity thanks to small, funky entries like the Kia Soul.
Pastel tones, like mint green and very light pink, are also in the mix.
PPG will take its colour tour on the road to Los Angeles, Europe and Asia and will then start working with individual automakers on their choices. Companies typically choose eight to 10 colours for every model. PPG won't say how many cars it supplies paint for each year, but it works with every major car company.
"They think about the vehicle and how that colour will translate," Harrington said. "That colour, sparkle and finish helps define the car's character."