The trend, which has been forecast by color specialists to start to become apparent around 2016 and then accelerate over the next few years, has been particularly evident in the choices of buyers of new cars.
The automobile sector usually reflects the underlying color preferences of consumers which are repeated across other sectors like interior decoration, household appliances, electronic devices and above all in fashion.
In fact the current fondness for more color could be influenced by the colorful design of portable devices in constant use such as smartphones and the images on their displays.
In a report on Automotive Colour Trends in 2016-2017, BASF Coatings describes this phenomenon as being the combination of two different perspectives of the world based on the virtual and the physical. “(They are) experienced when one looks out of a moving car,” the report says. “While trees at the edge of the road seem to rush by in blurry streaks, the landscape further away in much easier to make out and enjoy.”
The forecasters have been warning that the swing to more powerful colors could falter in the midst of an economic downturn or political uncertainties. Then the move will be to more muted colors.
Otherwise the momentum behind the desire for more color should gather pace through 2017 and even beyond.
The latest breakdown of preferences among European car owners do not, on the face of it, show a marked shift to color because of the continued dominance of achromatic or ‘uncolorful’ coatings –white, black, gray and silver
In 2015 the percentage of white vehicles in the European automotive sectors was around 30 percent, with black at 19 percent, grey 15 percent and silver 13 percent, according to BASF figures.
These had a total share of over three quarters with the remainder comprising mainly blue, red, brown, beige, purple, gold, yellow and orange. Of these, blue accounted for the largest proportion of 39 percent, followed by red at 27 percent, brown 17 percent and beige 7 percent.
This year the ascendancy of the achromatic coatings in the European OEM market appears not to have altered much.
There are big color differences, nonetheless, between types of vehicles in Europe. Figures issued in late October by PPG show over half of newly manufactured minivans and light trucks were white and luxury vehicles were mostly grey. Small and compact models were most likely to have blue and red shades while SUVs were most likely to have gold, beige or yellow shades.
However, the vast majority of achromatic OEM coatings have special effects which add sparkle or other reflections or refractions combined with colors which change according to the angle of vision. Often these effects are an important way for automobile manufacturers to differentiate their brands. “(We) provide individual solutions through our colors and effects,” said Mark Gutjahr, Europe design head at BASF Coatings.
Most effects come from metallic or pearlescent materials with the former reflecting light with a rich glow or luster while the other through refraction provides a shimmering variett of colors.
However, with white OEM colors there are signs in Europe of lack of enthusiasm among car owners for rich pearlescent effects. Figures from Axalta, the former DuPont coatings business based in Germany, reveal that last year there was in Europe a 25 percent preference for solid white and only 4 percent for pearl white compared with a world average of 11 percent.
The company is predicting a decline in the European popularity of white in automobile, mainly because of the difficulty and expense of repairing damaged pearl white coatings. Instead pearl white will be mainly replaced by ceramic white.
“At a distance, ceramic white looks more solid but when viewed more closely a combination of pearlescent and aluminium metallic effects give it in a light grey appearance,”explained Christina Luedecke, a technical specialist in OEM coatings at Axalta.
Overall color coatings are gaining share in the OEM sector with the preferences for white, black, grey and silver declining from a peak of around 90 percent five years ago.
PPG reckons that blue’s popularity has risen by 3 percent in the car market across the world this year with growth in Europe and the U.S. In 2017-18 there will continue to be a rise in demand for blue in cars, according to Jane Harrington, PPG color-styling manager for OEM coatings.
“Blue is a very versatile color for the automotive market because subtle shifts in the hue, chroma and flake appearance of a blue coating can do a lot to enhance a vehicle’s style or distinguish a brand,” she says.
In fact blue has become increasingly fashionable in other sectors as well in Europe. Traditionally a favorite color, it is going through a revival.
For 2017, color and design experts at AkzoNobel, the European market leader in decorative paints, have chosen a grey-blue, named Denim Drift, as the Color of the Year for its Dulux Trade decorative paint brand. It will be part of a palette of blues.
“Creating a blue color scheme provides commercial specifiers with flexibility in both a residential and commercial setting with hues that run the gamut of being calming and energizing,”said Louise Tod from the Dulux Global Aesthetics Centre.
BASF launched this summer a collection of effect colors for the auto market, where changes in viewing angles revealed new colors and textures. They included metallic blues, which the company believes will help blue gain market share.
Under its Xirallic brand for aluminium-based pigments, Merck Group of Germany, a global leader in effect pigments, has introduced a bluish white version to complement black and silver-gray appearances and another with a more intense and brilliant blue. Also it has launched under its Suprima label blue, red and gold effect pigments which give exact color values for coatings applications.
Effect pigments are reinforcing their capability for extending the versatility of colors at a time when consumers want to gain more from them.