This past Friday, Jack reported on Continental’s decision to remove its ATE Super Blue brake fluid from the market, citing its non-compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards. Apparently, Super Blue ran afoul of regulations regarding the coloration of brake fluid in motor vehicles. It’s not clear exactly what led Continental to recall the product now after years on the market, but it’s obvious why: blue brake fluid is a no-go according to American regulators. As Jack pointed out, this apparent government overreach has cost consumers another choice that amateur racers in particular found useful. Commenters on that story debated the relative merits of regulating automotive fluid colors, in particular brake fluid. So just how regulated are fluid colors anyway, and do those regulations help or hurt consumers overall?
According to an infographic in the WSJ, based on research undertaken by Hyundai-Kia, the US doesn’t just buy a huge number of vehicles… we buy our cars a greater diversity of colors than any other market in the world. Sure, silver, grey, black and white still make up just over 60% of our new cars, but amazingly that’s one of the lowest percentages among large markets. By comparison, those four colors represent a whopping 885 of all new cars sold in South Korea. China and Japan buy 79% and 78& of their cars in those four colors respectively, but China is the only nation represented with a significant proportion of yellow cars sold, at 3%. Why? I’d guess it has something to do with the fact that yellow was once forbidden from buildings and garments, reserved for the Imperial family by sumptuary law (although it could be a more recent craze for “Bumblebee” edition Camaros). Meanwhile, India and US have the highest rates of (literally) green cars, at four percent, Europe has the blues, with 18% ordered in that color, and red-blooded Americans still buy the most red cars at 12%. And with a full 9% of new cars purchased in a color not represented here, the US has the most offbeat car colors as well… a distinction that seems fitting to our individualistic, car-worshipping culture.