White is about to be replaced as the most popular car color
If one color expert is correct, we may all be getting the blues soon — at least on cars.
Jane Harrington, who has been a color pro at PPG Industries Inc. PPG, -0.69% for more than 30 years, is betting on blue as an emerging color option for cars in the next few years.
Harrington has noticed a lot more blue cars in recent auto-show “reveals,” or the showing of a car brand’s new model or a model’s overhaul. In past years, the cars showcased in the reveals were usually painted black, silver, or red.
Ford Motor Co. F, -1.53% caused a furor in 2015 when it launched a lineup of sporty “performance” cars and a couple of cheaper cars in a color it called liquid blue — and caused some rambling online since the color was available only as a “concept color,” and not approved for production.
Ford lovers wishing for blue have to content themselves with a more opaque color Ford calls “Nitrous Blue.”
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Blue, despite its association with sadness, is well liked by many, and has the added advantage of variety, Harrington said — it can veer toward gray or green, or go lighter or darker to suit.
“You can’t do that with every color,” and it lends itself to an auto maker’s customization, Harrington said.
It would be a resurgence of sorts for blue: About 10% of this year’s models are blue, a drop from about 12% in the 2000s, she said.
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Color preference — or at least what car manufacturers think of what ought to be our preference — vary through the years. Green cars were popular for a big chunk of the 1990s, but account for only about 2% of the market now.
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In the decade to 2010, silver reigned, thanks to its implications of a futuristic, more technically-advanced era. From 2011 on, white got its turn, largely because it was redefined by Apple Inc. AAPL, +0.37% as the color of luxury and “cool.”
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Some color preference is also a function of regional taste. Some 10% of the cars in Asia fall into a category that PPG calls “naturals,” golden and brownish hues that don’t hold the same appeal elsewhere.
PPG is an 131-year-old supplier of paint, glass, and other products for several industries, including autos. Auto manufacturers typically make their paint selections two to three years in advance, and Harrington, on her 33rd year at PPG, is a color styling manager in the company’s auto-paint unit.
Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA, -0.23% last year told MarketWatch its most popular car color was solid black, followed by gray metallic and, you guessed, blue metallic. The company launched three new colors — a shiny black, a deeper blue, and a darker silver — in April 2015
Shares of PPG have lost 2.9% so far this year, and shares of Tesla have tumbled 21%. That contrasts with a gain of 7.6% for the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.04% in the same period.