I’ve been grousing about the grim, grayscale, paying-the-gas-bill-level of excitement that is the current state of the automotive colorspace for years and years, to the point where I once actually reached out to Paul Czornij, BASF’s North American lead designer to ask him why the world is like this, and what happened to the era of orange family sedans and yellow hatchbacks and teal trucks? I asked him those questions because BASF North American releases a report every year about automotive color trends across the globe, and the results are always interesting, even if they tend to be disheartening to those of us who enjoy full-spectrum color vision (sorry, sharks). The report for 2022 is now out, and while the dominance of grays and whites and blacks continues unabated, there are a few, small gains made by actual, real, chromatic colors that may be just enough of a hook to support a small bag of hope. It’s not much, but it’s something, and I’ll take it.
For this past year, it seems the big news is that the achromatic (you know, grays, white, black) dominance is finally showing a few tiny cracks. According to the report:
Chromatic colors gain market share around the globe
As they have for several years, achromatic colors dominated the automotive market around the globe in 2022. But as BASF’s designers found in the company’s Color Report for Automotive OEM Coatings, the automotive color rainbow is expanding to allow colors like yellow, orange, green, and violet to take market share.
The most popular chromatic, actual colors that buyers chose instead of some gray miasma were reds and blues, making up five and eight percent of the global market. Here’s the full breakdown:
So, the Grayscale Monolith still controls a shocking 81% of the market. And, it looks like blue and red, despite holding the highest chromatic percentages, dropped one percent, along with green, brown, and gold. But! There’s a surprise here, with violet – freaking purple – making a one percent gain and getting on the big board, along with yellow and orange! Hot damn! It also says green gained share, but then it also shows green dropping a point, so I’m verdantly confused.
For my fellow Americans looking for an actual, genuine, unassailable reason to be patriotic, here you go: America’s percentage of real colors sold on cars is up, a glorious, rainbow bulwark against the cloudy gray mass encircling the globe. From the report:
Blue is still on top, and the gap between blue and red is widening as blue continues its dominance. Achromatic colors like black, gray, and silver lost some market share, especially in larger vehicles. That allowed earthy tones like beige, brown, and green to increase, and violet to gain market share as car buyers’ tastes change.
Black, silver and gray losing market share? Damn, it feels good to read that. Of course, the achromatics still dominate in America, like everywhere else. There’s other interesting details to note, like how South America tends towards lighter colors and yellow, oranges, and greens making European gains, while Asia grows even grayer.
Look at 1996! Achromatics were on the run! And look at all that green! Oh, and if you want to see the raw data, you can click here.
And this chart only goes back to 1990; going back further, you can see that our carscape was once vastly more colorful, like the earthtones and colors of the 1970s:
…or the fearless pastels and two-tones of the 1950s:
So, while the global state of color in cars is still pretty boring, I’m going to allow myself to feel a little bit of hope, and maybe even a little bit of pride that America is leading the way back to color. Come on America! Let’s keep it going! And, rest of the world, don’t be afraid of color! Let’s push back the gray with a blast of cheerful yellows, elegant blues, vivid oranges, and, yes, glorious purples.
I'm a co-founder of the Autopian, the site you're on RIGHT NOW! I'm here to talk to you about taillights until you cry and beg me to stop, which I absolutely will not. Sorry. Hug? Also, David's friend.
I remember when I thought matte gray was kind of interesting. That was when it was only on a few cars. Now it’s on everything.
After hurricane Ian flooded and ultimately totaled my daughter’s (used to be mine) blue car we had a really hard time finding anything not white, black, silver, or gray. When we stopped by the Kia dealership every single K5 they had was matte gray.
We ended up with a lovely dark metallic blue Mazda 3 which we had to wait for. One dealer offered to take off the paint color upcharge for a white one they had on the lot, but my daughter would not go for it. Had to be blue. Doing our part.
I’m trying to do my part to boost the real colors on these charts… I have banned my wife from buying white, black, silver, or gray cars. We currently both drive green cars (Volvo XC60 for her, F150 for me) and our last new car purchases were gold and orange. My wife’s next car will also be a real color, either Red or Green Rivian R1S. Just waiting on the green light email from them…
I’m currently doing my part while restoring my formerly white 280Z, which is starting to show some Nissan 920 safari gold!
just bought a new forester and really wanted something other than black white or grey. they had some nice colors on the option list but nothing at all available within any reasonable distance.
really wanted the red, ended up with a very nice, but not what I really wanted dark grey.
the problem is the dealers only order black white and grey.
My mom did her part and got a rather nice bright blue (Atlas Blue Metallic) on her ’22 Exploder. She was originally having a hard time deciding between that color and the Stone Blue Metallic, which is nice but much more subtle, and I convinced her to go with the former and it turns out she’s very happy with her choice.
That video from late 60s,early 70s sure was sexy. Look at all the good stuff!
We got a new Sienna in 2021 and my only real requirement was that it not be white, gray or black. We lucked out and were able to get a blue one.
My car is bright sunny yellow. Well, below the waistline and above the wheels, anyway. I only ever had one black car, and that was because they didn’t have one that I wanted in a different colour and I didn’t have the time to wait for one to become available.
Who woulda thunk that my Sahara Tan Jeep Wrangler would be a stand out color? It’s tan!!
My wife lived in Japan at the start of the ’90s. At the time white cars were all the rage. The hilarious thing was when she’d ask people why everyone drove a white car, the answer was, “because it’s easier to find in a parking lot.” Yes, it certainly makes it easier to find A white car in the lot.
On a separate note, for years my son was keeping count of all the purple cars he saw—averaged a couple a month*, but some weeks he’d see 3!
*he was scrupulous about not double-counting, although it’s not like he was tracking license plates.
Heh. Years ago I was borrowing my grandfather’s white 1973 F150 while my car was in the shop, and I drove it over to a friend’s house. When he answered the door, he wisecracked, “Oh, it’s you! Kim and I thought you were a guy from the City coming to shut off our water or something.”
I’m curious how the sonic grey pearl on many civics and accords is categorized, it’s certainly blue but Honda chose to call it grey to trick people into buying it I guess?
I switched from a blue model 3 to the gray color. To be honest the gray is a more interesting paint to look at because the metallic is a mix of silver and blue so you get some nice sheens out of it. That said I would love another green car or maybe even a purple if done right.
A plague of white cars. 39 percent? At that point it’s almost self-sustaining as most of the cars available on the lot are white, so it’s hard to buy an interesting color unless you special order.
What no one seems to have noticed is that most modern cars look like shit in colors. Don’t believe me? Crank up the old Photoshop and make a cream over teal Model Y. How about a Plum Crazy Accord? Something happened when the Stylists became Designers.
I can only imagine that the cream over teal Model Y would be a huge improvement over the ubiquitous ugly elephantine look of it in white
To be fair, cream over teal is unlikely to look good on anything. 😛
At least, anything made since approximately 1962.