Silver cars continue to stand out

October 2, 2009

Silver cars continue to stand out

For ninth year, evolving color outshines other vehicle shades

The Detroit News

Troy — Silver continues its nine-year reign as the No. 1 color choice for cars and trucks, paint supplier PPG Industries said Thursday at its annual Automotive Color Trend Show.

One out of every four vehicles in North America is silver, a figure that represents a jump of five percentage points over last year, said Jane Harrington, manager of color styling, automotive coatings for the Pittsburgh-based company.

"Silver looks great on any car, shows off all of the lines and helps people blend into the crowd," Harrington said.

The silver sprayed onto cars today, however, is much more advanced than it was when the color began its No. 1 roll nine years ago. Compounds, pigments and even paint flake sizes have evolved to create much more diverse and richer hues, Harrington said, noting, too, that technological improvements in both the paint and production of vehicles have allowed carmakers to expand their palettes.

The Color Trend Show is used by industry designers to follow current and future trends.

Susan Swek, group chief designer of color material design at Ford Motor Co., said that while silver, black and white will remain at the top of many consumers’ wish lists, Ford has found success with colors that are eye-popping conversation starters.

Its pale blue — known as Grabber Blue — Mustang comprises about 10 percent of 2010 Mustang sales. Thirty-nine percent of the Ford F-150 Raptors sold have been Molten Orange, Swek said.

"We anticipated a much smaller (group of buyers)," she said. "Grabber Blue is an absolutely polarizing color, which is great; some people like it and some people don’t."

The subcompact Ford Fiesta, which will arrive in the U.S. next year, will also come in vibrant colors, such as bright green and red, as well as the basic silver, black and white, Swek said.

Small cars go bright

Bright, cheerful colors fit very well with the character of small cars, Harrington said.

This year’s study of colors included a breakdown of colors by vehicle segments:


  • Fifty-seven percent of compact cars are silver or black; 21 percent are blue or red.



  • Blue and red make up only 17 percent of the midsize segment and 12 percent of the luxury segment.



  • On the other extreme, 40 percent of all luxury vehicles sold in the U.S. are black.



  • Europeans, who have a stronger small-car culture, have even more color variety in the compact segment, with 37 percent of the small cars in red, green, brown or blue, according to PPG.


    More focus on accents

    Harrington noted that carmakers have also become much more interested in paints that can enhance car interiors.

    "Over the past three or four years, there’s been a much greater focus on accent paints for interiors," she said.

    During the show, PPG also exhibited a number of new colors and mixes that used glass or other reflective surfaces that create a sparkling effect while making the color even deeper.

    The 2010 Lincoln MKZ uses one version of this sparkling color — iridescent charcoal — and other carmakers are beginning to explore different types of effects.

    The silver reign will not last forever, Harrington warned, noting people will eventually want something different.

    "Fifteen years ago, only 8 percent of the vehicles were silver and the No. 1 color was green at over 20 percent," she said.

    Colors may change, but they still have a lasting impact on buyers, Swek added.

    "Over time, different colors will sell and become popular," she said.

    "But some things won’t change, when you buy a vehicle, people always go, ‘What color did you buy?’ "

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