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Silver still rules the road-but for how long?

Silver still rules the road-but for how long?


This Mercedes sports the color of choice, according to a DuPont report.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who ever goes for a drive, but silver for the second year in a row ranked as the most popular automotive color in the annual DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report. But the survey also suggests that some automotive color shifts may be on the horizon.

In addition to reaffirming the car buying public's love affair with silver, the survey also revealed an increasing popularity for rich colors, with medium and dark grays in particular gaining ground. In North America, 11.5% of vehicles made during the 2003 model year sported gray, up from 7% last year.

Why so gray? "It's a pull-through from silver, which is a kind of gray," explains Robert Daily, DuPont's automotive color manager. And he attributes this shift to today's "chiseled, sharp-edged" automotive designs. "Darker colors make those designs look better," he says, noting that some of the newest grays will be enhanced with coarser metallic effects than in years past.

The DuPont survey, which has offered color analysis for more than 50 years, also highlighted an increasing use of reds and other high-chroma colors. Yellow has even emerged as a top-10 color in the sport-compact segment.
Daily believes that the upswing in high-chroma colors signals a forthcoming change in automotive color palette. And he predicts that more vibrant hues will serve as an increasingly popular alternative to silver and neutrals as "more people become adventurous about color," he says.

Nowhere are these two color trends more apparent than in the North American luxury segment, which has traditionally been a bellwether for other vehicle categories. Medium-gray jumped from sixth place to the lead color in this category, while red surpassed the traditionally more popular blue. Medium-dark green, by contrast, has fallen out favor in this segment. This former color leader from the 1990's has dropped out of the Top 10 luxury-vehicle colors, though it did post small gains in other segments.

Darker grays also rose significantly outside the luxury segments as well. It jumped from sixth to third place in the sport-compact category, and it climbed four places to become the third most popular color for intermediate-full size cars.

Silver, meanwhile, stayed firmly on top in North America, where it colored 20.2% of 2003 vehicles. It was followed by white at 18.4% and black at 11.6%. "Neutrals will always be a major part of the automotive color palette," Daily says. The question now is how big a part. For all of its popularity, silver slipped about two percentage points from last year. "It should remain strong for a couple of years, but we do see it plateauing," he says.

For more information on the DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Survey, visit www.automotive.dupont.com and click on "News and Events."

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