Most Popular Car Colors
Neolithic cavemen once buried their respected dead with powdered red ochre, believing red to be the color of life and prosperity. Although there is no evidence, we also suspect that ancient Bedouin desert-dwellers drew Le Mans racing stripes on their camels using wood ashes. One seems as likely as the other.
Point being, color has power. So do cars. Yet for most of their respective histories, the two didn’t fare well together. This is the story of how color and cars found each other…..
Despite Henry Ford’s oft-quoted quip, “You can have any color as long as it’s black,” early automobiles came in all sorts of colors if you could afford the high price. Most early, oil-based paints were laboriously applied by brush, required weeks to dry, and faded or chipped away within two or three years. Some painters even worked au naturel to prevent contamination by hair or lint. Hence the exorbitant price for vanity paint colors. For everyone else, Henry Ford perfected a baked, hard enamel, indestructible black.
Technology inched forward. Spray guns replaced brushes. Then the standard color wheel got a kick in the pants from the Color Revolution of the 1920s. General Motors partnered with DuPont to create Duco, a durable and tintable lacquer, resistant to sun, mildew and water, that dried within minutes. By the time General Motors unveiled its “True Blue” Duco-painted cars, customers were offering their firstborn children in exchange for the Superman paint. Meanwhile, Henry Ford resisted the change and proclaimed that anyone who repainted his Model T other than black would void his warranty.
Once customers caught glimpses of General Motors’ Irish Green, Batam Rose and Bambalina Blue, not even the Great Depression could prevent the rising river of auto body paint color choices. Metallic paint, imbued with fish scales or aluminum flakes, debuted in the 1930s. Chrome trim brightened the 1940s. Automobile manufacturers created color advisory boards and sent people to London and Paris to learn what Americans really wanted.
Then came the 1950s and the golden era (no pun intended) of color. Pastels saturated the market. Pink Edsels, pale green Fiats and coral-colored Dodges peppered newly-paved suburban streets. Bright mid-tones like salmon and aqua debuted later in the decade. Within a few years, public garages looked like bags of M&M’s.
Jewels and precious metals inspired the 1960s. While the younger half of the nation renounced materialism and embraced free love, the older generation drove cars the color of necklaces, rings and bracelets: Champagne Yellow, Azzurro Ponsacco and Turbine Bronze. Back then, most cars sported matte or satin sheen rather than today’s high-gloss.
Once younger people purchased their own transportation in the 1970s, they promoted appreciation for Mother Earth by endorsing earthy-colored cars. Brown infiltrated everything. Porsche stood alone; churning out vibrant collectible colors like Tangerine, Viper Green and Lilac. In spite of a decade diluted in umber brown and red ochre, the nation’s bicentennial year, 1976, popularized red, white and blue cars.
For reasons unknown, bold colors continued through the 1980s and went underground in the 1990s. The Fearsome Foursome – white, black, silver and gray – overthrew all other colors. Those four colors, or lack thereof, have held lasting power ever since.
Common Car Color Myths
Urban legends have long claws. The following myths, despite stacks of numerical evidence proving otherwise, have persisted with tenacity.
For instance, most men believe that bright red cars are more likely to be ticketed more often and by extension, are more likely to be charged high insurance premiums. This is horse manure. Not a single insurance company adjusts rates based on car color. In one expert study, red cars made up 14 percent of the local population and 16 percent of the ticketed vehicles, a statistically insignificant difference.
The fact is that drivers and fast cars, not color, are responsible for tickets. A September 2014 study by Insurance.com noted that the top three vehicles most likely to receive a speeding ticket were the Subaru WRX, Pontiac GTO and Scion FR-S.
Another popular car myth is that certain colors, like red, fade faster than others. “Not so!” says science. Colors that contain lots of pigment do not historically hold up as well as non-color colors like silver and off-white. No color of car is more likely than another to be involved in a collision. The final myth is that bright, bold hues like burnt orange or lime green, increase your sex appeal. Just think of the Aston Martins in James Bond movies or the hot rods of Fast and the Furious. Unfortunately, the laws of Hollywood break down outside Los Angeles.
Which Colors Are Most Popular?
According to the DuPont Global Automotive Color Survey, the most popular car colors in 2014 were:
• White – 24 % • Black – 19 %
• Silver – 16 %
• Gray – 15 %
• Red – 10 %
• Blue – 7 %
• Brown/Beige – 5 %
• Green – 2 %
• Yellow/Gold – 2 %
• Others – 1 % or less
Why the switch to black, white and boring?
Toyota has 428,606 reasons. That’s how many Camry sedans it sold in the United States alone in 2014. Based on collision repairs, our estimators at our Las Vegas and Henderson auto body shops concur that silver is the most popular car color in Vegas.
A Buyer’s Guide to Car Colors
Common knowledge says that white cars reflect about 60 percent of solar radiation and black cars absorb it. A few automobile manufacturers now apply reflective and low-emissivity coatings to their dark-colored vehicles. Theoretically, interior temperature would not differ between black and white cars. But for most automobiles, the truism holds.
Some car buyers, however, would rather put up with toasty interiors than the dirt, bugs and sarcastic messages written in dust common on white cars. They choose black; a color that hides dirt, but shows scratches. Ready to spring for that sparkling 2014 Chevrolet Corvette in Lime Green Rock, something akin to British Racing Green? How about a Ford Mustang in Gotta Have It Green? A BMW in Monte Carlo Blue?
Note that silver, white and black cars boast reliable resale values. Your Fiat 500C in Giallo Moderna Perla (aka, Glossy Mustard)? Not so much.
But Dutch Economist Ben Vollard, assistant professor at Tillburg University in The Netherlands, would probably support your choice of eclectic color. According to Dutch data compiled from 2004-2008, cars painted blue and silver-gray were stolen 40 percent more often than cars in less popular colors. The thieves, Vollard suggested, were looking for cars high resale value.
Yet hope is in the air for cars of bold coloring. Susan Lampinen, chief designer of color and material for Ford, says, “The pendulum is swinging back, where people are not afraid to express themselves with color.” People think white SUVs look like rental fleet outcasts; black sedans look like mini-hearses; silver-blue cars look like the face of corporate America. Give us bold, says America. Give us zesty.
Consumer Caution: Modern matte finishes are as durable as traditional glossy sheens, but often require special cleaning detergents and soft cloths. Most should avoid any kind of wax, polish or curbside automatic car wash.
What Your Car Color Says About You (Your Car Color Horoscope)
The above subtitle is a little misleading. You can’t separate a car from its color. For instance, a black Cadillac Escalade means you aspire to be a famous hip-hop artist, whereas a black Ford F-150 means you’re a good ol’ boy with a .12 gauge in the lock box.
For no other reason than a few laughs, here’s what your car colors says about you.
And, if you prefer red ochre, then you just might be a caveman.
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