BASF Colour Report 2020 Notes Wider Colour Range

BASF Colour Report 2020 Notes Wider Colour Range

The BASF Colour Report 2020 for Automotive OEM Coatings shows the automotive colour palette shifting in unconventional ways, unveiling a wider range of chromatic colours rolling off the world’s assembly lines.

According to the report, diverse shades like blue and yellow are making gains in some regions, while red and violet are slowly cutting the lead held by the achromatic colours in other parts of the world. The expanding colour spaces made the overall spectrum broader than 2019 and added a flash of brilliance.

Despite the shift in colours, BASF says the achromatic colours – white, black, silver and grey – followed a familiar pattern, coating the majority of the vehicles produced. As it has been for several years, white is still the most popular car colour around the world. BASF says it has a classic, timeless beauty, and a connection to both the environment and high technology.

The data cited throughout the report shows lower total vehicle production than past years, and includes times when vehicle manufacturers had to shut down due to COVID-19. The global pandemic has deeply affected the mobility economy and the world.


According to BASF, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) follow the global movement of chromatic colours. In 2020, about 11 per cent of new vehicles in EMEA were coated in blue, making it the most popular chromatic colour. Violet is a newcomer to the market, increasing diversity even more, while other chromatic colours are also gaining popularity, especially on smaller SUVs as their market segment grows.

Part of the variety comes from the diversity of shades. OEM vehicle manufacturers used more than 160 distinct shades of blue in 2020 on vehicles in EMEA, while grey was second with 140 shades. Both colour spaces were more diverse than white, which only had 70 distinct shades.

In the achromatic spectrum, white is still on top at 28 per cent of the market, followed by grey and black.

“Colour variety changes with size. For example, where violet has a unique home in mid-size SUVs, it does not appear in great numbers in smaller or larger SUVs,” said Mark Gutjahr, Head of Automotive Colour Design, EMEA at BASF. “The opposite is true with yellow, which shows up in both the very small and the very large, but not the middle. These are specific and unique colour positions that appear and disappear throughout the segments.”


BASF says that North American car buyers have fewer choices for chromatic colours, but that does not mean they are choosing fewer chromatic cars, trucks, or SUVs. Blue gained more popularity as an automotive colour in North America, edging out red, while beige and brown have dropped off the list. That leaves green as the only other chromatic colour in significant numbers in the region.

Shades of blue are seen as more elegant in this region, and buyers who may have chosen beige or brown in the past seem to be moving to blues or greys. BASF says its designers could see this coming, describing blue as “a major colour direction for the automotive industry that will gain market share in upcoming years” as early as 2016. Automotive designers often look three to four model years ahead when developing colours, and BASF says the market has played out exactly as predicted.

“There’s a lot to get excited about with the bright colours we’re seeing,” said Paul Czornij, Head of Design, The Americas at BASF. “Just as we predicted three or four years ago, blue is having a moment in the sun, and we’re using some beautiful effects and pigments that advance the possibilities of hue and texture in this important design space.”


Asia Pacific is home to the largest volume of automotive production in the world, and a microcosm of global colour popularity, according to BASF. While every region is different, Asia Pacific’s preferences mirror global data, and its bright colours mirror the awakening that chromatic colours are experiencing elsewhere.

The company says white is still the most popular colour in the region, coating about 48 per cent of the vehicles produced. Black and grey continue to improve, following a three-year trend that eats away at the dominance of white.

While the total numbers are not high, brown, green and violet are all consistent in colour popularity. BASF says it will be a long time before they challenge white for the most popular, but for now, they add to the large diversity of colour in Asia Pacific.

“People in Asia Pacific really enjoy choosing colours for their vehicles. Colours are very human-oriented, flexible and free, showing the diversity of the region and its people,” said Chiharu Matsuhara, Head of Design, Asia Pacific at BASF.


BASF says that colours like red and blue, which are so popular in other regions of the globe, are still players in South America, especially among car buyers who are trying to express their individuality with sportier cars. However, what is more significant is the market’s love of achromatic colours.

Historically, South American car buyers have chosen more traditional, less ‘flashy’ colours. Like other regions, white is the clear favourite, covering about 39 per cent of OEM vehicles. The popularity of grey and silver is higher than in other regions, with 18 per cent for each, while black has the smallest preference among the achromatic colours, with 12 per cent. Altogether, the achromatic colours command an 87 per cent share.

Unlike other regions, red stands out as the top chromatic colour with nine per cent. Diverse shades of blue are important worldwide, while in South America, blue is just two per cent of the market. Orange is a newcomer, brown is holding steady, and beige has all but disappeared.

“Trends that are popular in other parts of the world are slower to catch on in South America,” said Marcos Fernandes, Director Regional Business Management, Automotive Coatings South America at BASF. “While this is a continent with many colourful aspects of its culture, people tend to be more conservative with their cars.”

The BASF Colour Report for Automotive OEM Coatings is a data analysis from BASF’s Coatings division based on global automotive production and paint application to light vehicles in 2020. View the full BASF Colour Report 2020 here.