Car colours

Forget the bright car colours everyone turns to look at – it’s dull hues most buyers are attracted to.

A report from global paint producer PPG has found that the majority of motorists will choose conservative paint colours for their cars, as white once again topped the list as the world’s most popular choice, accounting for 22 per cent of all cars in the world – up one per cent on 2011’s figures.

Silver was a close second place with 20 per cent popularity, while third-placed black dropped in popularity by one per cent to 19 per cent. Grey was fourth, with 12 per cent of the total colour pie (down one per cent).

While the results focus on the global market, PPG says that in the Asia Pacific area, silver and white are the most popular car colours, with both accounting for 23 per cent of new cars on the road. Black accounts for 19 per cent, “natural” shades such as brown, orange and gold make up 10 per cent, while red (nine per cent), grey (eight per cent), blue (seven per cent) and green (one per cent).

Associate professor and fashion expert Karen Webster from the RMIT school of architecture and design says that car colour choices in Australia are influenced by several factors, including what’s fashionable at the time of purchase.

“All creative industries are impacted by social and cultural trends,” says Webster. “What happens at any one time is there is often a mood, a social mood that pervades and will affect everything from furniture to design, architecture to fashion and even car design.”

Webster says the fashion industry works at a phenomenal pace, but the long lead times and involves production techniques can’t always keep up with the hottest trends.

When developing new vehicles car makers often point to having to pick what will be fashionable in, say, five years.

“In Australia now we’ve got companies such as Zara and TopShop, who have got new merchandise hitting the floor on a weekly basis and they’ve got fast turnaround. So in some cases with Zara, they can get from an idea to retail in 19 days,” Webster says. “You never have that happen in the car industry. When any major automotive brand is developing a new car, it takes years.”

Webster posits that where we live has an impact on what colour car we choose.

“Does black sell better in cities like Melbourne, Berlin, Antwerp which are all known for wearing black? And do bright, light colours sell better in Sydney, California and Istanbul? I do think you will find there is a certain kind of aesthetic that exists in different geographical locations,” Webster says.

Webster says the smaller, more affordable and more disposable cars are generally more fashion-focused, suggesting colour options for cars like the Suzuki Alto and Holden Barina Spark  or the Fiat 500 are very much up-to-date with the bold colour trends.

But, Webster says, that changes when you spend more money.

“If you’re going to spend $50,000 and above on a car, you think ‘I’m going to have it for a while’, and therefore it’s like buying the classic black jacket: ‘I’m going to have it in my wardrobe for a while, so therefore I want to have something that’s more an investment piece’,” Webster says.

The minor drops in popularity of the more conservative shades opens up space for more exciting options, according to PPG. It claims more, er, colourful colours are starting to trend back in, though metallic shades including gold, copper and bronze increase in popularity.

A survey conducted by PPG found that 77 per cent of people claimed colour was a factor in choosing their car, with buyers of luxury cars or SUVs and sports cars placing higher importance on getting the colour they want. On top of that, 45 per cent of people want more colour choices.

Mike Millar, manager of strategic marketing for PPG, told Automotive News that car colour was among the first questions buyers asked when looking at a new car purchase, and the company’s research had placed exterior hue options as “nearly as important as advanced technology”.