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Most popular luxury vehicle colors

While gold far outranks silver in terms of price per troy ounce on the precious metals market, when it comes to luxury car colors, silver reigns supreme.
/ Source: Forbes Autos

While gold far outranks silver in terms of price per troy ounce on the precious metals market, when it comes to luxury car colors, silver reigns supreme.

For the second year in a row, silver has surpassed white to become the paint color of choice on luxury cars and trucks sold in North America. Next up is black, which placed third; blue, fourth; light brown, fifth; and red in sixth.

Where did the hue of the safe-haven investment come in? The yellow/gold color family was ranked the seventh most popular exterior for vehicles purchased in 2005. Green, gray and “others” rounded out the rest of the Top 10 Luxury Vehicle Colors list.

These findings were among the results of the annual DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report, which analyzes vehicle exterior paint sold by color family and breaks it down by vehicle model type, such as luxury, and by world region, such as North America. DuPont is the world’s leading supplier of color coatings to the automotive industry and, in the United States, the company claims its coatings are featured on eight of the top-10 selling vehicles.

Think the research is purely academic or solely a promotional exercise? Think again. Now in its 53rd year, the annual color report can help predict vehicle color trends.

“Thirty-nine percent of customers who walk into a dealership will leave and go to a totally different brand if they can’t get the color they want,” said Christopher Webb, General Motors’ lead designer for exterior colors. “Color plays an incredibly important part on people’s perceptions and desire for a product.”

And, like other vehicular technological and style innovations, desirable paint colors often show up first on high-end vehicles and then trickle down-market. Take, for example, the sparkling hue known as pearl white.

“Where you saw that in Cadillacs and Lincolns in the past,” said Karen Surcina, color marketing technology manager at DuPont Automotive Systems, “you will now start to see that on other vehicles as well, probably more of the midsize market.”

Given the long-term paint color planning cycles and durability testing done by manufacturers, car and truck color palettes don’t generally swing wildly year to year. But the annual DuPont list, compiled using industry data, does help foreshadow what is coming in and what is heading out.

That’s good news for primary colors red, blue and yellow. Also, after a huge recent fall, gray appears poised to gain anew as fresh tints are added to an otherwise neutral tone.

Primary colors, in short, are not the primary purchasing options for car and truck buyers. Overall among luxury vehicles, neutral colors like black, white, silver and gray accounted for 58 percent of all vehicles sold and primaries accounted for 26 percent.

“Black is such a luxury color; [it] really takes the place of gray in that market,” Surcina said. “When you’re looking for an upscale product, people do tend to look at black. They go for the fashion, as well, and black is a higher-palette body color in luxury.”

Forty-six percent of all Rolls-Royce Phantoms sold are black, according to the company. “The reason is probably two-fold,” spokesman Bob Austin said. “First, black never goes out of fashion and is always very classy. Second, a large car like a Rolls-Royce Phantom just looks good in black.”

Eight percent of Rolls-Royces are sold in custom colors, Austin notes, but four out of every five cars are requested in black, white or silver.

“Why do people order such conservative colors? Well, perhaps because our cars cost approximately $350,000 each. You begin to get a bit conservative when you order something that expensive. People go with the classics,” he said.

Not every tint is timeless; some colors’ fortunes ebb and crest. A decade ago, green was dominant. Under luxurious-sounding names such as “calypso green” and “polo green,” more than one-fifth of all sport and compact cars, trucks and vans carried that verdant skin. But by 2003, less than 1 percent of luxury vehicles were clad like Kermit.

Then again, such predictions could be off — we consumers are a fickle bunch. And, as GM’s Webb explains, from a generational standpoint, today’s paint color preferences are topsy-turvy compared to the past.

“Historically, if you look at a luxury vehicle, whether it be Cadillac or Buick, or if you look at a conservative vehicle like a truck, it’s dominated by neutral, conservative colors,” said Webb. “And the more youth-directed products are historically into bright colors. But there's almost a role-reversal now, and the youth products are doing a lot more in dark gray, [silver and black].”

In the overall automotive market, silver has been the top color choice in North America for six consecutive years.