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New challenges put a sharper point on popularity of automotive colour

In 2021, the automotive industry faced new challenges that it had never faced before. The total number of vehicles built on the world’s assembly lines in 2020 and 2021 was significantly lower than the years before.

That put a sharper point on the popularity of certain colour spaces in the BASF Color Report 2021 for Automotive OEM Coatings, while knocking some perennial favourites down a few points.

The achromatic colours – white, black, grey, and silver – are still the most popular; with grey the best selling car colour in Ireland for the past six years.

Despite being the classics, some cracks are showing in their armour as new colour spaces emerge, according to the report.

As predicted by BASF’s designers years ago, blue is having a moment in the sun. Red is also rising – taking market share from the achromatic colours in many parts of the world. Even though the numbers are smaller, green and beige still show up in the data, and the colours aren’t the typical shades you might expect.

The share of chromatic colours in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) is now over 27 per cent and rising – the highest it’s been in two decades.

Blue is driving the trend among the chromatics. There are currently nearly 180 shades of blue from sky blue to midnight blue that appear on all body types in all segments. Red is in second place, far behind blue, accompanied by a fair share of shades of green.

For the achromatic colours in the region, white is still the most popular, but grey is catching up. Grey has several options, with effects and textures that multiply its presence. Grey’s 160 shades range from elegant, dark, sparkling colours to light and sporty solid colours.

Asia Pacific
White may still be the most popular colour in Asia Pacific (AP), but its popularity is starting to slip. Black and grey continue to improve, maintaining a four-year trend that is changing the presence of white vehicles on the road. A full 79 per cent of new vehicles produced in AP were coated with achromatic colours in 2021.

The popularity of chromatic colours is stable, with some individual colour spaces adjusting a few points up or down. Blue – the number one chromatic colour – is up, mirroring global data from other regions. It took some share from red, which went down. Brown and gold show up in substantial numbers, while beige, orange, yellow, green and violet hang on with about one per cent each.

North America
Blue appears to be moving on for North America. Its share is down four per cent when compared to 2020. That would put the preference for blue back to 2017 levels. Achromatic colours surged, including white, which increased in North America while declining globally, but not silver or grey, which are both down.

Among the chromatic colours, red edged up one per cent. Red and blue are now tied as the most popular chromatic colours.

BASF claims raw material shortages in 2021 forced automakers to make difficult choices while allocating scarce resources. That seemed to favour the larger, more popular platforms in the midst of the downturn.

South America
Blue is enjoying a global surge in popularity. In South America, blue increased by three per cent in 2021, taking some of that market share from red. While car buyers in the region tend to be more conservative, some new shades are catching buyers’ eyes.

Automotive designers often look three to four model years ahead when developing colours. BASF says this is playing out as predicted, as South America tends to be slower to adopt colour direction than other regions.