It edged out basic black, with white a long way back in third. Silver has been surging ahead in recent years, also topping the popularity contest in Australia in recent years despite the one-off attractions of everything from Kermit green to gold and even purple as hero colours on Australia's benchmark performance car, the SS Commodore.
The colour chart emerged this week from DuPont, an American paint maker that has been compiling a similar popularity poll in the USA for the past 57 years. "This is the first year we have run the world colour information. North America had silver at number one from 2000 to 2006, but while was number one from 2007 to 2009," says Nancy Lockhart, colour marketing manager for DuPont's original equipment paint division.
Lockhart says the results vary by regions, with black on top in Europe and silver dominating in Asia and South America. "There are still distinct regional differences in preference, but global trends are unmistakable. Colour preference can change from year to year because of a variety of factors including types of vehicles introduced, reduced vehicle size, consumer tastes and even the economy.
"These and other cultural, societal and demographic influences can shift regional trends over time.” But she says silver, the top choice with prestige brands including Benz and BMW, is the dominant force at the moment with little likely change in coming years. "Silver is likely to stay on top and will share the race with black," she says.
"Bright and chromatic metallic colours of high interest in North America. Purple is beginning to emerge in small volumes." DuPont charts the colour changes partly to boost its business and partly as a way of helping carmakers identify emerging colour trends.
“The auto industry is an increasingly global business, so regional and global colour data are vitally important to designers," Lockhart says.
Despite regional differences, the top three colour choices rank well ahead of gray in fourth and — surprisingly — red in sixth.
“The top colours become ‘aspirational’ with a universal appeal," says Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “There are many reasons to buy a new car, yet we know colour is often the ‘driver’ for purchasing a vehicle. “Consumers have gotten very savvy about how and where to look for colour trends and they do look for guidance on what’s new in colour.”
Silver is top in Australia in a reflection of the global results but DuPont says there are significant differences between regions. In Europe, black is pulling ahead from silver — 27 to 19.9 per cent — but in Japan the perennial favourite, white, lost four percentage points from 2008 and silver dropped back to be equal in second with black.
In China, silver is clearly the favourite with a 36 per cent score and black dropped back by four points despite remaining in second. The big upset in the latest results is Russia, where green — only eighth with 1 per cent of the global result — was second to silver and took 18.2 per cent in the DuPont rankings.
GLOBAL CAR COLOURS
Top 10 choices — 2009
1. Silver — 25 per cent
2. Black — 23 per cent
3. White — 16 per cent
4. Gray — 13 per cent
5. Blue — 9 per cent
6. Red — 8 per cent
7. Brown/beige — 4 per cent
8. Green — 1 per cent
9. Yellow/gold — 1 per cent