Not Black and White (but Mostly): Paint Preferences Remain Tame for 2019

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
not black and white but mostly paint preferences remain tame for 2019

“You can have any color you want, so long as it’s white… or silver,” General Motors not so famously told this writer last summer, after a disheveled man walked through their doors in search of a bargain-basement ride.

Yours truly made the right choice, and it seems the rest of the world followed. White is by far the world’s most popular automotive paint color, topping a palette that shuns vividness and excitement with a passion. Thankfully, a color this writer loathes due to its overuse in the previous decade is still dropping, falling to its lowest point in more than a decade.

The annual study by coatings industry giant Axalta (its 67th) sheds light on an industry that, while constantly evolving, always keeps the grayscale at the forefront.

Since 2011, buyers have made white their No. 1 paint choice; the take rate on a global scale now stands at 38 percent, though its popularity differs depending on region. More than half of Chinese car buyers (57 percent) chose white in 2019.

Mercifully, silver has fallen drastically from its all-time high of 26 percent in 2010. It’s now at 10 percent and no longer among the top three choices. If you guessed black was the runner-up in this race, you’re bang-on. Global take rate for black vehicles stands at 19 percent, and that matches its popularity in North America, too. In the premium field, black reigns supreme, gobbling up 28 percent of N.A.’s high-end volume. In Europe, 33 percent of luxury vehicles are sold in black.

The third-place choice should surprise no one, and it’s a shade that may challenge black for the silver medal position before too long: gray. This writer’s favorite paint choice (he’s owned three grey sedans in the past), gray makes up 13 percent of new vehicle coatings in 2019, up 1 percent from last year. This year, gray topped the list in Europe for the first time (at 24 percent). In North America, it’s a more modest 17 percent, but only two points behind black.

Altogether, white, black, gray, and silver made up 80 percent of the world’s new vehicles this past year, which is off only two percent from the most non-colorful year in recent memory (2010). Too much color stimulates, we suppose, but these findings shouldn’t be seen as a tombstone for vivid hues. Blue is having a good year.

Blue happens to be a fast-rising star, capturing 7 percent of global car buyers. A versatile and variable color, blue’s popularity is highest in Europe and North America, where it seduced 10 percent of new car buyers in 2019. In the domestic market, blue rose two percentage points since this time last year. Still, this is a far cry from 1961, when 26 percent of North American buyers greeted an incoming President Kennedy by springing for blue cars.

Red isn’t far behind in this region, at 9 percent of sales; nowhere is red more popular than in North America. Globally, red accounts for 6 percent of all new vehicles.

While brown, beige, and tan are colors not commonly seen leaving dealers (this would be a different story if it were the mid-1970s), there is one place that still loves the earthtones: Russia. Buyers in the Motherland saw fit to make brown or off-brown their top choice in 12 percent of sales.

If you’re a lover of green, sorry to deliver this news: There’s not many green cars. That color sits at the bottom of the mainstream ladder at just 1 percent.

[Image: Daimler AG, Ford, Honda]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Nov 13, 2019

    Simple the auto manufactures could copy most appliance manufacturers offering white, black, and stainless (silver) and black or gray interior. Since most vehicles are considered appliances then offer the same color choices.

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Nov 14, 2019

    Since 1974, when I bought my first car, I've had 3 silver cars, 5 bright red cars, a yellow truck, 2 blue cars, 2 maroon cars, and one black one. Never white, beige/brown (Shudder), or green. I'm done with silver, I got tired of it almost as soon as I got it every time. I don't like "weak" colors on cars. My present Challenger R/T Scat Pack is TorRed. If FCA put Petty Blue on a new car, I would be tempted to trade it early. I probably wouldn't, but I would be tempted...

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