Home » The 2023 BASF Color Report Is Here And There’s A Big Shift, Just Not The One I Want

The 2023 BASF Color Report Is Here And There’s A Big Shift, Just Not The One I Want

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Every year, our pals over at BASF’s Automotive Coatings division release their Color Report, and every year I excitedly leer at the graphs and findings, hoping for a revolution of real colors overthrowing the tyranny of the grayscale hordes –  but it never actually happens. And, for 2023, it once again didn’t happen, though BASF’s report does suggest that “the traditional automotive color wheel is going through a transformation.” However, this transformation is happening in the dominant achromatic space, so forgive me if I’m not all worked up. Still, it’s interesting, as always, and worth digging into.

I should also mention I seem to have called something one of the nice BASF color-analysts said “psycho-babble” at some point and they’re not letting me forget that, nor should they.

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Let’s get started here, with a global overview of car colors. This is how humanity is painting their cars in the current era:

Global2 2

From my perspective, this remains a pretty grim picture. We’re still at a staggering 81% achromatic/grayscale colors, and only 19% actual, real colors, of which 12% are just red and blue. What’s the situation here in North America?

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Northamerica

About the same, 80% grayscale. Ugh. Blue and red still dominate the true colors, but orange and yellow don’t even show up, and green is down to 1%, compared to the global 2%.

The big shift that our BASF color-divinators are all worked up about is how white, the globally dominant car color, is slipping, losing ground to the literal Dark Side, black:

“Achromatic colors, which have always formed the foundation of automotive color, are experiencing a significant shift. While white continues to hold its position as the most popular color for light passenger vehicles, it has seen a notable decrease in market share. In contrast, black has surged in popularity, gaining market share at the expense of white.”

So, the huge transformation is that black stole three points from white. Oh boy.

Let’s take a quick look at how things break down in the four regions BASF divides the Earth into (likely for ease of future conquering):

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Regions

We’ve looked at North America, so let’s go around the rest of the globe and see what’s happening. Asia Pacific is the lone rainbow ray of hope for real color-colors, showing an increase in color diversity, which BASF attributes to “more varied body styles.” That could be, but personally I suspect the wild diversity of the Chinese car market is a big factor here, with so many new brands and models popping up, and a customer base interested in newness and novelty. It’s not unrelated to the BASF justification, really.

In Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) the boring achromatics gained two percentage points, but there are some interesting bright spots in Europe, like Italy’s impressive 30% share of chromatic colors; BASF also notes interesting regional preferences:

“When European consumers chose colors, there were country-specific preferences. Germany loves blue (11%), Spain and the UK prefer red and orange (approximately 9%), France adores green (6%), and Italy shows its love for all the colors, with its share of chromatic colors being the largest among all five countries (30%).”

South America is a bit of a disappointment, with 86% achromatic colors. Yawn. It seems like BASF is trying to make this sound more exciting by noting that “effects pigments” are popular, stating:

“Colors aren’t just colors any more. They are experiences,” said Marcos Fernandes, director, BASF Coatings South America. “Whether it’s a pearl or metal flake or other pigment, the effects make the color leap from the vehicle into the eyes of the beholder. It gives a certain flair that’s becoming more and more popular.”

At the risk of pissing off my BASF friends even more, I can’t not note that reading “Colors aren’t just colors any more. They are experiences” in reference to, what, a slightly metal-flaked gray(?), made my eyes roll so far back that I think I puked out a bit of my pupil. Sorry, I appreciate interesting pearlescents and glittery metallics and matte finishes, but in the end that’s still just a lot of cars in boring non-colors.

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Perhaps the one bit of chromatic good news here is the surprise Verdant Tsunami, the doubling of the percentage of green cars globally, from 1% to a staggering 2%. This is an encouraging sign, as green cars are fantastic. I shared this excellent news with my lovely wife, Sally, and she was so moved that she asked if she could write a little something about it.

I said sure! Sally likes cars but isn’t quite the hopeless car geek many of us are, so I like getting this more rational-human perspective. Plus, she’s a very talented designer, which I think gives her good insight into colors generally. And she even made this great graphic to head her section!

Greenjump

First off, full honesty, as a person who’s only ever owned used cars, I’ve never owned a green car. Reading about their lack of popularity over the years (only 2.15% of cars are green according to CarMax), I feel partly responsible. As a teenager, my dream was to own a green VW Beetle or a 1994 convertible Chrysler Lebaron. I never owned either by the way – my first car was a 1980 Silver Honda Accord and I loved it like a brother, but what I would have given for a green Honda Accord! My dreams would have partially come true.

I’ve settled over the years for the silver, white, and occasionally blue cars that seem to cloud the freeways and parking lots with their monotoned predictability. Where was the creativity, where are my people, where are the green cars?

One auto maker that has consistently produced cars in beautiful shades of green is Lexus. Now, while they aren’t my favorite cars – sorry to the Lex-Heads out there – I can’t deny the brand’s color choices and quality of paint are definitely some of the best I’ve ever seen. Damn, even the white that Lexus uses is undeniably beautiful, with its pearlescent flecks of gold and pink that seem to sparkle like a glass of champagne!

When Lexus’s color mavens does a green, they do it with heart, in what seems to be a silent but undeniable nod to the enthusiasts that cut and crop pictures of Lexus Nori Green LC 500s to mount on their vision boards. 

When I saw the BASF Color Report this morning, one of my first thoughts was, “where is green on this report,” fully expecting to blurt out a profanity when its rank didn’t meet my expectations.

But to my surprise, the color green has actually gained a popularity point! I like to think that green is having a moment with the cool kids, much like nerds did in the late 80’s or girls with glasses did in the mid 00’s.

The time has come, and hopefully will continue to come, for green cars to shine their olivey-limey rays of light down upon us from their brilliant viridescent 2% pedestal. Hooray for green cars!

Reports from Autotrader point towards green having “above-average resale value” along with its cousins gold and blue. This says something to me, or rather it hints at something having to do with class and car color, but I’m a goony simpleton who drives a black SUV that blinds me with the glare of screaming warning lights that seem to permanently have residence on my dashboard.

It’s okay though, my day will come. My vision board of green cars, green Chanel purses, and green size-6 Fashion Nova dresses will definitely not let me down and perhaps (PERHAPS) writing about this longtime fantasy of mine will somehow bring a four-wheeled knight in shining green paint to my driveway.

Well said, Sally. Maybe we’ll get rid of that ass-pain of a Tiguan and find you something nice and green and without a constantly-burning check engine light.

 

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Myk El
Myk El
2 months ago

Let’s see my personal history
1 blue
2 red
2 green
1 champagne gold
2 white
1 yellow

Grey alien in a beige sedan
Grey alien in a beige sedan
2 months ago

This article is tough to read… and that has nothing to do with Torch’s grammar or punctuation, which, as always is perfectly adequate here. The trouble began when I kept trying to pronounce BASF in my head whilst reading along. Is it pronounced like “bass-iff”?

Data
Data
2 months ago

When I think of BASF, I think of cassette tapes. Maybe I just made to many mix tapes back in the 80’s and 90’s. I also think it’s just pronounced as letters; B A S F

Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
2 months ago
Reply to  Data

Indeed, just pronounced as letters. And better to think of what they made in the 1880’s or 1980’s than… well… in between.

(For those that don’t know, in the 1880’s they primarily made dyes.)

Andrew Bugenis
Andrew Bugenis
2 months ago

My first car was green; since then I’ve had a red and a blue. I will absolutely pay a premium to not get something “achromatic”.

Hell, the Volt had a year of “green” but it was this really pastel mint-ish thing rather than anything with any boldness.

Dingus
Dingus
2 months ago

I am very proud to be part of the %1 crew of Green in the USA. I wanted a 5th gen Camaro, but ONLY if it was either orange or Synergy Green. I got my greeny and I love it so much. The green itself is one of my all time favorites; so bright and happy. Even the interior door panels and dash carry the green through so it’s not just for everyone else to see. I never lose it in a parking lot and even though it’s 13 years old now, people still offer the occasional compliment. FWIW, I have gotten ZERO tickets in this car despite the occasional indulgence in velocity, and on one occasion, directly in front of the local constable.

If anyone wants to make the weak argument that buying a “wild” color reduces resale, I can tell you that I had to pay a $2000 premium over similar used models for the green. You only need one buyer if you’re selling a used car and if it’s an unusual color, they’ll come find you.

Prior to the Camaro, I had an NA Miata that was originally white, but the paint was blowing off in sheets down to the primer. I was going to have it resprayed white because I presumed a different color would cost more, but then realized that was not the case. As I was dropping it off and about to leave, they said, “you can pick literally any single-stage color you want” and plopped a giant book of paint chips in front of me. Took me all of a minute to find the Volkswagen colors and pick out Cosmic Green as I had noticed a Golf wearing it a few weeks earlier. People LOVED that green Miata, lots of thumbs up and smiles.

In closing, get a green car, make friends. Get a not-color and nobody cares.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
2 months ago
Reply to  Dingus

My 1967 CJ-5 is in ‘spruce tip green’. It is a fantastic colour. When I bought, it was a really bad beige but as I began stripping back paint, I found the green. I immediately found a colour chart and got the paint code. Very happy to have it back to its original colour.
My MGB is a robin’s egg blue which my wife loves, when I get around to painting that, there seems to be no other option.

06dak
06dak
2 months ago

My automotive history is dotted with a few blacks and grey/silvers, but when I’ve been able to actually choose I’ve always chose colors! The current fleet is an orange Colorado and red/orange CRV. Previous to that the last 10 years went: red, red, red, black, purple, silver, red, green, grey… some new, most used. Color isn’t the only thing I shop used for but it can be a deciding factor as I really hate monotone cars – and will never own another black one!

It’s a travesty how monochrome the colors have become. And having been to China recently, I don’t think they are the ones putting color on the map – it was a disappointing sea of white and black cars everywhere.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
2 months ago

My ’18 is green. The few cars I’m interested in replacing it with, don’t come in green. Grrrr….

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
2 months ago

I’m sat at my desk and in front of me is a rack containing a Hotwheels of all 24 cars I’ve ever owned, all painted the correct colours.

One green, two reds, four blues, five shades of grey, five whites, seven in black.

Four convertibles, fifteen coupes, two hot hatches and three sedans. None of those cars is boring, not even the grey ones.

If they were all grey I’d have been happier, and I wouldn’t have had to buy as many cans of paint to make my custom Hotwheels. The most vibrant shade of the rarest hue of paint known to humans is worth less to me than a bit of steering feel, or the smoothness of a straight six. Who cares what colour an RX7 is when it shoots flames out of the back?

Bright colours are a tiny niche thing that the rest of us don’t want or care about. Like convertibles. We don’t need a bright colour or horrific wind noise to enjoy driving a car. Most car owners don’t even want to enjoy driving a car, which makes me sad because I really care about that, but it doesn’t make them wrong.

That said: my Kawasakis have to be lime green. I don’t know why. This may be a more complex issue than I think it is.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago

Fortunately, so far I have been able to find nice used cars in real colors, with my current fleet being red and reddish-orange (the reddish-orange car being two-tone with a white roof!)

But what I would really love someday is a teal car. I love my red and orange cars, don’t get me wrong, those are great colors. But my favorite color is teal, and outside of the 90s, there’s just a woeful lack of teal cars in the world.

Much as I’m not a huge fan of GM, I will give credit where credit is due and say that they have been a shining beacon of teal lately. The teal paint options on the Blazer and Bolt in particular are simply gorgeous, and transform normally boring cars into things of beauty.

If I could buy one new car in 2024 it would be an Aptera and if I could have it in any color, it would be that sweet Chevy teal.

Flyingtoothpick71
Flyingtoothpick71
2 months ago

I’m sad that half of my current fleet fits into that monochromatic scale, but that is soon to change.
my 98 Ford Explorer is the dark blue.
my beetle is pastel yellow (I need to repaint it because some rust repair needs to be done, it will be yellow again though, with a 70-80s street machine paint job on it)
my 2015 RPS Hawk 250 is black, but i put a nice red tartan seat cover on it.
my 2008 Suzuki gs500 is silver and black, but i honestly may paint it with the same yellow my Beetle is and put a funky design on it, similar to what the beetle will have.

Flyingtoothpick71
Flyingtoothpick71
2 months ago

also not a huge fan of green, but I do like the Saturn dark green as that was the color of my moms saturn and she loved that car. its also the car I learned manual in (didn’t ever need the clutch because the transmission was so worn you could float them at any rpm)

Greensoul
Greensoul
2 months ago

I bought my car just because it came in green. A bright, brassy, tacky alien green at that. Glorious! I had to have it. The color was my deciding factor when mini SUV shopping a few years ago.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
2 months ago

BASF:

“Achromatic colors, which have always formed the foundation of automotive color…”

??

I’ll just dust off the first paragraph from Tom Wolfe’s The Last American Hero again (and remember Jason’s 1970s car park photos):

“Ten o’clock Sunday morning in the hills of North Carolina. Cars, miles of cars, in every direction, millions of cars, pastel cars, aqua green, aqua blue, aqua beige, aqua buff, aqua dawn, aqua dusk, aqua aqua, aqua Malacca, Malacca lacquer, Cloud lavender, Assassin pink, Rake-a-cheek raspberry, Nude Strand coral, Honest Thrill orange, and Baby Fawn Lust cream-colored cars are all going to the stock-car races, and that old mothering North Carolina sun keeps exploding off the windshields. Mother dog!”

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago
Reply to  SonOfLP500

Yeah that sentence pained me. Since the beginning of automotive history, car colors have been vibrant, you just can’t always tell due to the black and white photography of the era and the fact that precious few 100 year-old cars survive unrestored with their original paint intact.

For one thing, the idea that Ford Model Ts were only available in black was a myth – for the first few years they were available in a rainbow of colors with black not being one of them, and it was only in the middle years that they were all black. They switched back to having color options in the last few years as well, and the ability to choose different colors was a big selling point for Ford’s competition in all of those years.

Even in the 30s and 40s, there were a lot more earth tones than greyscale. Creams, beiges, and browns were popular. Then the 50s happened and everything was vibrantly colorful until at least the 70s, when earth tones were in again.

It seems to me that in the 80s and 90s, greyscale rose in prominence, but there were still fun colors around like the teal craze in the 90s.

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
2 months ago

The number of wrapped cars around Toronto is high, so there are often interesting pearls and (gasp!) actual colours to see. They stand out all the better in the sea of greyscale. I just can’t get over the fact that it’s $4000 for that vinyl, which is what has stopped me from doing it to either of my regrettably black whips. Used shoppers get what they can, I suppose. At least I once owned an orange car.

The Dude
The Dude
2 months ago
Reply to  Scone Muncher

That… seems like a lot for a wrap. But I’m guessing a decent paint job is quite a bit pricier.

The last couple of cars I’ve bought were used and sadly an interesting a color had to take a back seat to features and vehicle condition. While at first I wasn’t too thrilled about one of them being silver I later found that the paint does a great job at grabbing whatever colors are around rather than screaming “dull base model silver” that I associate with a lot of silver cars.

Loudsx .
Loudsx .
2 months ago

I would kill for a green car, loved my S14 200sx in jungle green.

but when it came to picking a color my my new car it was very limited, so Blue it was, (the yellow was a bit too washed out so that left blue and red.)

121gwats
121gwats
2 months ago

Green??! Green makes a comeback and not blue or red? Dont get me wrong, I’m all for a Brittish Racing Green, 70s olive or 90s teal-green, Jeep Sarge (Army)/Gecko Green, Audi Goodwood Green, but I have a feeling its “godawful GM Emerald Green”.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago
Reply to  121gwats

Blue and red never stopped being the most popular real colors. Green is just starting to join the party.

Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
2 months ago

Current fleet is half and half, though if I go and buy new again I am buying chromatic, period, end of story. Historically, I’ve had cars in just about every shade and non shade, except purple, pink, or lime green.

Fleet:

  • Niro EV (Bought new) – Silver. I was buying a leftover previous year model, and they only had silver or white left. White was $500 extra. If I’m paying extra for a color, it better be and actual COLOR. Over time I’ve become quite sick of the color.
  • Santa Fe (Bought CPO) – Frosted Mocha Metallic. There were a handful of candidates when we were shopping, but this happened to fit a happy trifecta of price, options, and NOT being silver. It ranges from medium brown to almost bronze depending on ambient lighting. I quite like it.
  • Legacy sedan (Bought from a junkyard) – Spruce Green. If you think regular used car shopping limits your color choices, try limiting yourself to a junkyard like my son wanted to. He wanted to bring something not quite dead back onto the road and fix it, and with it he got a great color.
  • Mustang convertible (Bought used) – Oxford White, tan top. It was literally the only V6 S197 ‘vert available when I was in the market (hey, I’m old and don’t care about raw speed or crowd crushing). One might call it a rental car combo, and one would be right; it actually started its life as a rental car.
OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
2 months ago

What’s misleading about blue’s representation – especially among the Germans – is just how many of the “blue” cars look almost black outside of direct, harsh sunlight. VW/Audi are especially big offenders here; I’ve had an A4 and several Golfs that seem so afraid of appearing like an actual color that mechanics and valets have noted them down as black.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
2 months ago

Remember the early 70’s when every other car was green? (the other 50% of cars was brown)
Or the early 90’s when THE color you wanted on your 4Runner, Camry or Lexus was that deep green metallic?

Pepperidge Farm Remembers….

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

I kinda wonder if those greens are to blame for green’s demise… In the 70s, they were mostly earth tone greens, olive green, avocado, pea soup green, goose poo green… The minute earth tones were no longer popular, everyone shuddered in disgust at 70s greens.

And the 90s greens looked great at first, but then the clear coats faded and the green paint somehow emphasized the fact that the clear coat was faded, making the car look old and crappy and subliminally making people not want green cars anymore.

Who is the Leader
Who is the Leader
2 months ago

My ‘blue green metallic’ Mercedes 300D started out one shade of green, but is now about 5 different shades of green and with a little bit of yellow primer showing through the sun ravaged base coat. I love how emblematic of it’s time the color is.
I wonder what color will be stereotypically 2020s? For the 2000s, it was beige. Teal for the 90s. Now? I don’t know.
Also interested to see that Sally’s writing clearly shows a similar level of eccentric enthusiasm as Jason’s. Keep it up!

Last edited 2 months ago by Who is the Leader
Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago

I think it’ll be that clearcoated primer grey that is stereotypically 2020s. Seems to be very trendy right now on all kinds of vehicles, and seems to be marketed as a fancy “cool” color when really it looks like someone emptied a vacuum cleaner and decided “that’s the color my new Land Rover should be.”

Last edited 2 months ago by Austin Vail
Data
Data
2 months ago

The 2020’s color will be termed Millennial Gray. It has taken over cars, furnishings, interior and exterior housing paint colors.

Steve L
Steve L
2 months ago

The only green car I’ve ever owned was also the worst car I ever owned – a 1971 Dodge Polara Custom. One of my favorites was a bright orange-red 1976 Chevy Vega wagon – I loved that color, and the car, which met an unfortunate demise in an encounter with a wrong-way driver in Maine.

I’ll admit that I joined the achromatic crowd with my first-ever new car purchase, a 1986 Saab 900S, and later cars have all been some form of silver or gray. However, I have sworn that my next car will be an EV in some real color, probably blue.

When my wife bought her Honda Fit in 2013, she deliberately chose a bright blue (they call it Raspberry Blue, for some odd reason.) It looks great.

Last edited 2 months ago by Steve L
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