BASF says its 2023 Colour Report for Automotive OEM Coatings supports the company’s view that the traditional automotive colour wheel is transforming.
According to the report, achromatic colours, which BASF said have always formed the foundation of automotive colour, are experiencing a significant shift. While white continues to be the most popular colour for light passenger vehicles, it has suffered a notable decrease in market share while black surged in popularity at its expense.
Consumer preferences vary across different regions. For example, North America has a growing preference for lighter shades of silver over darker greys, while in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), the trend leans towards darker shades.
Chromatic colours remained stable, with no significant changes in their total market share (19 per cent). This category includes a range of colours such as blue, red, brown, and beige, which continue to maintain their popularity among customers.
Chromatic colours in Asia Pacific continued to lead the new automotive colour palette, increasing market share slightly compared to 2022. The popularity of natural colours increased, especially green. Lighter colours became more popular, particularly light greyish colours and silver.
BASF said part of the reason Asia Pacific is more diverse in colour is the great variation of body types. Fresh shades can be seen in new energy vehicles, especially more green and purple-influenced colours.
“As various new vehicles hit the roads, it is only natural that a more vibrant colour palette would follow,” said Chiharu Matsuhara, Head Of Automotive Colour Design for Asia Pacific. “With new automakers creating new vehicles in Asia, they are asking for something more than the usual colour wheel. They want something bold and creative on their new designs, and young consumers appreciate those colours.”
Achromatic colours – white, black, grey, and silver – gained two percentage points in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). Car buyers shifted away from lighter colours of white and silver to darker shades of black and grey. Premium cars had more effects pigments than entry and mid-price classes, showing the depth and creativity of colour.
European consumers had country-specific preferences. Germany liked blue (11 per cent), Spain and the UK prefer red and orange (approximately nine per cent), France liked green (six per cent), and Italy showed its love of all colours, with its share of chromatic colours being the largest among the five countries (30 per cent).
“While the achromatic colours are still the most popular, each country appears to have its favourite place on the chromatic realm,” said Mark Gutjahr, Global Head Of Automotive Colour Design for BASF. “Different colour distribution could be seen in each of the major EMEA countries and in general. Our customers, the automakers, have left a lot of room for individuality and creativity in car dealerships now, and car buyers are taking advantage of that.”
Like EMEA, achromatic colours in North America gained two percentage points overall. Consumers moved in a lighter direction after vehicle manufacturers retired several grey colours, often replaced by shades of silver.
North America also had the highest share of red cars compared to other regions in 2023, but blue was the most popular chromatic colour in the region.
“We’re experiencing the same shift that other regions are seeing,” said Elizabeth Hoffmann, Colour Designer for North America. “The old standard colour palette no longer applies. Lighter shades are getting more popular, taking market share from grey. More and more choices have effects pigments to give them intensity and excitement.”
According to BASF, South America historically has a conservative approach to colours, with a huge portion of achromatic colours in 2023. A total of 86 per cent of new vehicles assembled in South America had either white, black, silver, or grey bodies, the most among all regions. The proportion of silver is also highest in South America.
With a large vehicle market, manufacturers are choosing effects pigments to make the achromatic colours stand out. BASF said more cars were delivered with effects pigments in all body sizes compared to 2022.
“Colours aren’t just colours 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 colour leap from the vehicle into the eyes of the beholder. It gives a certain flair that’s becoming more and more popular.”