P90151746-highResThere’s a saying in French: “Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas”. It basically means that it is pointless to argue about taste and colors. While I mostly disagree with this proverb, I can’t refute the facts from PPG Industries Annual Automotive Color Popularity Data. PPG is a leading manufacturer of transportation coatings, and the outcome of their annual study shows globally that white continues to be the most popular car color, followed by black (18%) and silver/gray (13%).

The trend is similar for North America where white remains most popular (23%), followed by black (18%), gray (16%) and silver (15%). In addition, PPG indicates for the North American market that:

  • 10% of automobiles were coated in natural hues such as golds, beiges, yellows, oranges and browns. Browns in particular are growing in popularity in midsize and SUV models
  • Sports models continue to be the most likely to feature red, blue or green shades. All three colors overtook gray and silver as more popular colors for sport models
  • Luxury vehicles, 24% of which were white in 2014, are most likely to feature effect finishes such as metallic or pearl tri-coat

What’s left out of PPG’s press release is why white, black, gray and silver are the most popular colors for automobiles. From what I gather, the perennial popularity for these neutral colors is assured based simply on their inherent plainness. As such, neutral colors are popular on cars for a number of reasons:

  • They are considered to be more tasteful, timeless, flattering, and fool-proof than bright colors
  • They can be acceptably paired with any other conceivable color
  • They do not run the risk of falling embarrassingly out of style far before the vehicle itself has become decrepit
  • Some drivers also choose neutral colored cars because they fear that a non-neutral car could “clash” unpleasantly against their house, with other cars, or even with particular outfits while driving

The last reason seems far-fetched. Would someone seriously choose the color of their car as a function of the color of their house? Also the popularity of these colors probably boosts their continued ubiquity. Dominant car colors tend to remain dominant, as most new cars are bought straight from the lot, where dealers preferentially stock the colors that sell reliably. One last reason; white is a free option and washes off easily, which adds to its popularity.

Except on certain occasions, I’ve always been antagonistic on white for a car. The first car I remember my father having was a Rabbit Mark I. It was white because of his work as a mobile emergency doctor in Paris, and I always thought of buying a replica one day. I also believe some cars, such as Ms or 911s, should only be bought in their classic colors; that is Arctic Silver and Alpine White. And I would strongly consider joining the dark side (no pun intended) if I ever bought one of these.

But then again, some say it’s pointless to argue on taste and colors…