Color my vehicle …

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There’s an awful lot going on in the light vehicle world right now, much of it being highlighted at the North American International Auto Show this week, with Ford Motor Co. taking the wraps off of its new 2015 model F-150 pickup, GM’s very first female CEO Mary Barra showing of the OEM’s new mid-size GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado pickup, and Toyota showing off a hot concept car dubbed the FT-1.

Yet even as those and other new light vehicular offerings get trotted out by various global automotive OEMs, there is a very basic question that will be asked by all of them internally: what color will buyers want when they decide to purchase new wheels?

Now, every vehicle buyer – be they a soccer mom looking for a new minivan or a rough-and-ready owner-operator aiming to purchase a new big rig – no doubt favors a particular color for their soon-to-be new ride, but Axalta Coating Systems takes this to a whole new level with its annual automotive color report; a survey this global manufacturer of automotive coatings has conducted for over 60 years now.

So here are some interesting findings from Axalta’s annual color review – and even though this report is focused on light vehicles, I’m sure a lot of the “trends” the company discerns certainly influence Class 8 buyers as well:

  • Globally, white strengthened its position as the most popular automotive color among consumers worldwide in 2013, growing in popularity by six percentage points over the prior year.
  • Within the “white” space, Axalta found that 22% of light vehicles were solid white and 7% were pearl white. 
  • Black was the second most popular color globally, with 20% of sales, but “effect black” was preferred more than “solid black.’
  • Silver at 15% and gray at 12% waned in popularity, while red held steady at 8%. 
  • Blue and brown/beige spaces each held 5% of the global market. 
  • The remaining color choices revealed low popularity for green, orange, purples and other spaces, although there was a small increase in the yellow/gold area.
  • Overall, neutral colors have been widely popular over the last decade and make up 76% of today’s vehicles.

Now here’s a look at some of the color preferences for North American light vehicle buyers:

  • At 26%, white continued to increase in popularity and remained the most popular color choice for the seventh consecutive year.
  • At 20%, black also increased in popularity as consumers gravitated toward black effects in the luxury and luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) segments. 
  • Silver has continued its slow decline along with gray. 
  • The two most popular “chromatic” colors choices are red at 9% and blue at 7%. 
  • Mexico prefers the lighter neutrals with white at 32% and silver at 18%.
  • Black falls third at 17% in Mexico. 
  • Other colors in Mexico fall in line with the overall North American trends.

Interestingly, in Europe, preference for white increased 5% in 2013 to capture 29% of new car sales with solid white being the most popular variant, while black at 21% remained the second most preferred color though decreasing in popularity compared to 2012.

By contrast, silver remained the most popular color in India at 30% while white is a close second at 28 %percent, as these light colors proved to be popular in the warm climate, Axalta found. Yet in South America, white at 29% market share eclipsed silver to take the top spot for the first time since 2001, followed closely by black at 14%.

Then there’s Russia, where though  white held the top color space at 18%, green turned out to be quite popular with 8% market share.

It’ll be interesting one day to see whether the preferred colors of big rigs aligns with those of the light vehicle market or not. But that’s a study ofr another day methinks.

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