Released in November last year, Axalta’s Global Automotive Color Popularity Report 2019 revealed that grey was the most popular colour for new cars in Europe. With 24 per cent of the market, grey narrowly edged out white on the old continent (23 per cent), but white remained the world’s most popular colour. The third most popular choice in Europe was black, and Axalta says that together, these three colours have a two-thirds market share. Silver has a 10 per cent market share while the leading “bright” colours are blue with 10 per cent, and red with six per cent.
Elke Dirks, Automotive OEM Colour Designer for Axalta in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the rise of grey came as no surprise. “Grey stands for practicality and professionalism, style and elegance,” said Dirks. “A grey car signals that the driver does not need to draw attention to themselves with a bright colour. Thanks to new pigments and effects, the previously rather inconspicuous colour is now often very stylish. It takes around two years to completely develop a new colour, so we have to recognise tomorrow’s colour trends today.”
Axalta says the OEM colouristic team evaluates a wide variety of indicators. In addition to analysing colour statistics as well as customer and model-related properties, they look at fashion and “zeitgeist” (the defining spirit or mood of a period of history). “Trends in clothing, furniture and accessories, even articles in magazines – everything can provide clues,” said Dirks.
Not every shade that Dirks and her colleague Christiane Luedecke develop makes it onto a car. Sometimes a colour fails due to production-related reasons, and sometimes it is because of the development of a repair formula. “The paint development for a car manufacturer does not only include the production paint, but also the right repair paint, because at some point body shops must be able to repair paint damage perfectly,” explained Harald Kloeckner, Head of Standox Training EMEA.
During the colour development process, Standox (an Axalta brand) is in regular contact with its OEM paint colleagues. “This co-operation makes the development of suitable repair formulas and paints easier,” added Kloeckner.
According to Standox, close coordination with OEMs is not a matter of course as some production paint manufacturers are not active in the refinish area, and vice versa.
Standox says the development of a paint repair formula is a lengthy and time-consuming procedure that includes microscopic analysis to identify pigments, the calculation of mixing formulas and the creation of spray patterns by robotics to obtain a neutral spray pattern. The results obtained are checked and refined.
Standox develops around 60 new mixing formulas every week and deploys them via its online colour software Standowin iQ. “It is a lot of effort, but we know we can ensure that our partners always achieve the best possible results,” said Kloeckner.