Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2004   by Auto Service World

A Horse of a Different Colour

Paint companies agree that silver is still at the top of the charts, but there is less agreement on what’s coming on strong in the near future.

For its part, PPG is putting its faith in pearlescent pastels, new shades of bronze and copper, and pigments that change colour.

At its recent annual global colour show for automakers, PPG’s Global Design & Colour Marketing Team introduced 120 new automotive colours, including brilliant shades created through special-effect pigment technologies.

“We’ve created a full range of colours for automaker consideration, ranging from deep jewel tones to bold, bright colours, and from pearlescent pastels to brilliant aluminums,” said Lorene C. Boettcher, manager, global design and colour marketing for the automotive coatings business unit of PPG. “The colours presented at this year’s show are evidence that special-effect pigment technology will have a major influence on automotive paint styling, and also demonstrate how coatings can add excitement and appeal to a vehicle’s design.”

According to Boettcher, special-effect pigment technology will offer automakers cleaner, brighter, and more sophisticated colours in the next few years. Depending on the size and type of metallic flakes contained within the coating, special-effect pigment technology can offer vehicle coatings a wide variety of characteristics. “Technology is allowing us to bring to life some exciting new effects, such as more subtle hue-shifting pigments and more chromatic colours,” said Jerry R. Koenigsmark, manager of colour design, North America for the automotive coatings business unit of PPG. “Other technologies we are showing will help improve light travel, to highlight a vehicle’s design and give coatings a liquid-metal appearance.”

DuPont, which has been conducting its colour popularity survey for more than half a century, says that some of the trends point toward medium-dark grey coming up in the rankings in North America, particularly in the luxury segment.

“Medium-dark greys, enhanced with coarser metallic effects, retain the technical sophistication of silver while providing a sense of richness and value, to differentiate new vehicle models from the mainstream,” said Robert Daily, DuPont Automotive colour marketing manager.

Overall, medium-dark grey spread across North America in 2003, increasing nearly 4.5 percentage points, according to DuPont. Although silver remains the top vehicle colour of choice at 20.2%, it slipped slightly in North America overall standings. Silver is trailed by white at 18.4%, which is up from 15.2% in 2002. Black, at nearly 12%, remained the third most popular choice among vehicle consumers. Light brown is revitalized with soft metallic effects, increasing from 6.4% last year to nearly 9% in 2003, moving up two places to the fifth spot.

At its recent annual Colour Trends exhibits and meetings, BASF told automotive designers that trends point to consumers looking for more festive and exciting colours, as opposed to the current traditional silvers, greys, and whites.

“Blues will continue to grow in popularity, but will be richer and more jewel-like,” said Jon Hall, manager of colour development for BASF’s Automotive Coatings business in North America. “Reds, which have bottomed out in popularity, will enjoy a modest revival, but in bluer and deeper shades. Today’s popular browns will shift toward orange hues and shades. We also foresee the emergence of dark, mysterious colours: dark blues, reds, coppers, and greys.”

Hall said BASF’s forecast also strongly suggests the coming demand for sparkle, glitter, and more metallic coatings, which is driving the company’s research and development efforts. “Innovative colours depend on innovative coatings technology,” said Hall. “So we’re working now on two automotive coatings for the future based on what we see as emerging colour trends.”

The first, says Hall, is a powder coating that creates a brilliant metallic effect, previously attainable only with more expensive tri-coat liquid systems. The benefit to carmakers will be the ability to match the rich appearance and durability of liquid finishes, and to combine it with the environmental benefits of powder coatings, which unlike liquid coatings release almost no volatile organic compounds and do not generate waste sludge.

BASF is also putting stock in holographic coatings. The company says these will appeal directly to car buyers’ desire for more glitz.



Numbers reflect percentage of vehicles manufactured during the 2003 model year in North America, as reported in the DuPont colour survey.


1. Med./Dark Grey23.37.2
2. Silver18.832.1
3. White Met.17.817.7
4. White12.611.8
5. Black10.98.5
6. Med. Red3.96.0
7. Med./Dark Blue3.88.6
8. Gold3.63.0
9. Light Blue3.1
10. Light Brown.91.7


1. Silver27.928.1
2. Light Brown17.411.6
3. Med./Dark Grey13.86.2
4. White13.511.8
5. Black10.211.2
6. Med. Red7.47.6
7. Med./Dark Green7.15.3
8. Med./Dark Blue6.19.5
9. Bright Red2.2
10. Gold1.73.4


1. Silver20.124.6
2. Black13.614.3
3. Med./Dark Grey11.96.7
4. Med./Dark Blue11.112.9
5. Med. Red9.25.5
6. White9.08.8
7. Light Brown8.14.3
8. Bright Red6.36.9
9. Bright Blue3.0
10. Yellow2.6


1. White22.319.3
2. Silver17.018.0
3. Black11.612.4
4. Med./Dark Blue9.311.4
5. Med./Dark Grey8.87.5
6. Med./Dark Green7.06.7
7. Lt. Brown6.35.1
8. Med. Red6.27.1
9. Bright Red4.14.5
10. Dark Red1.8



1. Silver20.222.8
2. White18.415.2
3. Black11.612
4. Med./Dark Grey11.57
5. Light Brown8.86.4
6. Med./Dark Blue8.510.9
7. Med. Red6.96.9
8. Med./Dark Green5.35
9. Bright Red3.83.3
10. Dark Red.9


1. Silver31.0
2. Blue19.225
3. Black14.413
4. Grey10.6
5. White9.75
6. Red6.87
7. Green5.410
8. Gold/Orange1.0
9. Yellow.8

*Silver and grey were combined in 2002.

*Purple tied for the eighth spot in 2003 with 1%.

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