Bland, dull and colorless: Axalta's 2017 Global Automotive Color Popularity report

Bland, dull and colorless: Axalta's 2017 Global Automotive Color Popularity report

White, black, silver, and gray dominate color choices.

January 5, 2018
By Robert Schoenberger

Cleveland, Ohio – Car buyers worldwide continue to be a boring, miserable bunch, selecting vehicle colors that would make members of the Soviet-era Politburo wonder what happened to Western decadence.

Coatings supplier Axalta has released its 65th annual color survey, though to call its findings colorful will be an insult to pigment.

Worldwide, 77% of new vehicles were white (39%), black (16%), gray (11%), or silver (11%). Throw in tan/beige (5%) at No. 7, and you have 82% of new vehicles painted in the chromatic equivalent of a yawn. White isn't only dominant, its popularity is oozing over the industry like room-temperature mayonnaise. In 2014, it only represented 29% of the global market.

The market has gotten so monotone that researchers have started differentiating types of white. As Nancy Lockhart, Axalta’s global color marketing manager puts it, “Pearlescent whites gained 4% in popularity this year as this multi-coat color is used on all segments and has the highest usage in Japan. Overall, light and bright colors continue to gain strength as light gray and light to medium shades of blue have increased interest in the market."

Yes, the move to light gray from dark gray is about as close to an embrace of joy and verve as this study gets.

“Automotive color evolves over time,” says Elke Dirks, Axalta automotive OEM color designer, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. “Recently, blue has been trending in various versions from highly chromatic shades to light metallic colors, and gray has been on the rise as the next competing neutral.”

At least in North America, we’re marginally more interesting – 77% in white, black, gray, silver, and beige; a whopping 5 percentage points more interesting that the rest of the world. In Europe and North America, the radical color blue makes up 10% of new vehicles, the only markets where an actual color breaks double digits. Though even there, the news is grim. Americans used to like red (11% of vehicles in 2014). Now, it's down to 9%.

The clear winner for most-miserable market is Russia. Not only are 83% of vehicles painted in boring colors, a full 10% of those are beige.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 17 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.