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April 7, 2013

Car color: Today's models largely stay in neutral

Given all the white, black and gray cars on the road, it’s obvious American motorists like to be in neutral for the time being.

“Neutrals have really dominated,” said Nancy Lockhart, a color expert with Dupont, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of auto paint. This was an understatement.

Why do most drivers insist on rolling in such dull wheels? Lockhart theorized that consumers became more conservative with car colors “after the economy took a spill,” in part because they wanted to be careful about resale values.

“White, black, silver and gray have taken over the lead,” she said.

According to PPG Industries, another top manufacturer of auto paint, white recently surpassed silver as the top-selling car color. White cars now comprise 22 percent of the global market. Silver and black are close behind with 20 and 19 percent, respectively. Gray is trailing slightly at 12 percent.

So where can an adventurous driver get that elusive splash of color? For that matter, where can a safe, boring driver get a car she can actually spot in the parking lot?

Consider green. The most popular hue of the late 1990s, green is fashionable again — sort of.

“Green is one of the most talked about color spaces in the trend reports right now,” said Lockhart. “But it’s low in popularity.”

Indeed, green comprises just 2 percent of international auto sales. Of course, the ‘90s were ruled by an inoffensive hunter green, whereas today’s hottest hues are wild, almost radioactive takes on emerald and lime (see the Hyundai Accent, the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Spark).

When it comes to cars with color, blue is the dependable standby, comprising a respectable 7 percent of the global market. Just like black and white, “blue is also a core color,” explained Jane Harrington-Durst, the resident color expert at PPG.

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