The names may not be familiar, but they are some of the global paint giants of the automotive industry. PPG, DuPont and Axalta also publish annual reports on our favourite car colours, and the results for 2015 make for fascinating reading, especially the regional variations in Axalta’s report.
Globally, white is the most popular colour, followed by black, silver, grey, ‘natural’ (shades of beige and brown), red and blue. If you go for pink, orange, green or any other wild colour, you are in the last few percent of car buyers, so look out.
White is the winner
Globally, white cars make up 35 percent of the market, and this colour is most popular in China (50 percent), Africa (46 percent) and Asia Pacific (41 percent). In Europe, white scores 29 percent, some 8 percent clear of its nearest rival. It’s the most popular colour everywhere. With white, you can’t go wrong.
So what does this say about car users? There’s very little publicly available academic research on the meaning of colour choices, but we can present a consensus based on popular psychology blogs, alternative healing resources and home decor magazines.
People who like the colour white are calm, tidy and positive. They can be conservative and tend to like order and simplicity. White symbolises purity, innocence and freshness. It’s a good colour if you want to be seen as peaceful, ordered and controlled.
Black is ambivalent
Black is the second most popular colour for a car with a global popularity score of 18 percent, only half that of white. Black is popular in Europe (21 percent), North America , Japan and Russia (all 20 percent), but deeply unpopular in India (it’s chosen by just 3 percent of buyers) and not much liked in Africa, where it scores 12 percent compared to white at 46 percent.
Black is associated with prestige and power, will and determination. It can be charming and stylish, but also enigmatic and intimidating. Black would be a good colour for Bond villains, power-broking executives and people who really don’t like white.
Silver sneaks third
Silver stands for wealth, technology and sophistication, so it’s a bit of a surprise to find it only manages third place in the global car colour ratings at 13 percent. It’s especially popular in India, though, coming out in first place at 30 percent – white is battered into second place at 29 percent. They like silver in South America too (23 percent) and in Russia (18 percent).
But silver doesn’t go down so well in China, where it comes in fourth behind brown, of all colours, with just 7 percent of the market.
Grey gets fourth
With a global colour share of 10%, grey is chosen by one in ten car buyers around the world. It’s especially popular in South Korea, apparently, (17 percent) and does quite well in Europe, North America and Mexico at 14-15 percent of the market. It’s not at all popular in Japan, China and the Asia Pacific region, though, with only a 5-7 percent share of the market.
Maybe it’s a problem with grey.
In fact, there is no easy way to say this. Grey is deliberately detached and emotionless. It can be seen as an indecisive, compromise colour for those afraid of commitment or strong statements. It’s the colour of caution – though on he upside it can also be associated with wisdom and age. And it doesn’t show the dirt too much.
Red brings up the rear
You might expect that strong, primary colours would be popular, but red only manages fifth place in our global league table of car colours with a score of 7 percent. It’s a lot more popular than that in North and South America, though, (10-11 percent) though the obviously bloodless European nations are amongst the least likely to choose a red car, with a score of just 6 percent.
Red is the colour of passion, energy and competitiveness. It’s also associated with sexual arousal and emotion. Ferraris are red, right? Enough said. This relatively low score for such a powerful colour could indicate that we’re just a little afraid of our own animal instincts.
Brown is natural
Natural in a very literal sense, since this is the term used by Axalta to describe ‘earth’ colours from beige right through to brown. Globally, it’s the sixth most popular colour, but it does all right in China, with 10 percent of the market. In North and South America and Africa too, however, it attracts just 3 percent of the market.
Brown is associated with humility and dependability, with stability, responsibility and comfort. If someone buys you a brown car, it could be a sign of their expectations, so be warned. If you buy yourself a brown car, you sound like a thoroughly nice person.
Blue gets the blues
Blue is the last colour to secure any kind of reliable ranking in the global automotive paint scale. We don’t mind it in North America, Europe, Japan, Mexico and Russia, where blue cars make up 8-9 percent of the market, but it’s a dead loss in China where it’s chosen by just 1 percent.
Blue is associated with depth, calmness and wisdom, and it comes bottom of our league table for popular car colours. Oh dear.
So what did we just learn?
When we choose a car colour, we like to think we’re calm, positive and ordered, but we also like a little danger and glamour. And yet, at the same time, we want people to be aware of our wealth and status, though we don’t necessarily want to stand out too much or make any clear decision in any particular direction.
If we do commit to a clear statement of our personality, though, we’d rather people thought we were humble and practical rather than fiery or passionate. The last thing we want to do, though, is offer any appearance of intellectual depth or wisdom.