If 2015 was the year that cars became more connected, 2016 is the year for vehicles to get more expressive.
Brilliant Blue was recently announced as the North American Automotive Color of the Year by Axalta Coating Systems.
The automotive paint company’s colour report, issued annually for more than 60 years, signals shifts in the preferences of both consumers and manufacturers.
Nancy Lockhart, colour marketing manager for Axalta, says that 2016’s particular shade—a deep blue softened with touches of turquoise—is inspired by natural colours that both calm and excite, “like water, brilliant skies and beautiful butterflies.”
“Now there’s a little more freedom in the economic situation, so people are starting to have a little more fun with colour” - Nancy Lockhart, colour marketing manager for Axalta
That doesn’t mean that traffic will soon be dotted with blue cars that look like toys. As the sixth most popular car colour, blue currently covers 8 per cent of passenger vehicles in North America, while 73 per cent of owners stick to predictable shades of white, grey, silver or black.
Pastel blues were en vogue from 1957 to 1959 and blue-greens did well in 1988, but blue is rarely the most popular choice overall. Lockhart says that more drivers are starting to embrace vibrant colours on both the inside and outside of their vehicles, with many even opting for warmer caramel and brown interiors to harmonize with more saturated colours on the body of the car.
Axalta’s 2015 Color of the Year was an energetic Radiant Red, which earned the title after a 3 per cent increase in popularity over 2014. It may not seem distinctive, but each percentage point matters in a big way in a colour market that is more or less predictable.
The company has published Color Popularity Reports for the automotive industry since 1953 and is usually able to forecast trends up to four years in advance.
Axalta designates a colour after months of research, usually involving consultation with numerous colour experts in different parts of the automotive industry. Since Axalta has a large portfolio of clients, it isn’t uncommon for them to reach out to those working with heavy trucks, original equipment manufacturers and even members of the automotive aftermarket.
Last year’s research even involved a jewelry colour specialist explaining the increasing popularity of rubies.
Blue climbed to the top this year, largely thanks to its increased use on sports cars and the emerging breed of crossover utility vehicles (CUVs).
The growing popularity of red and now blue paint hues tugs on an even larger design trend.
Though silvers and whites will always have their place, much more of the market is starting to turn toward high chroma colours, or hues that are more saturated and intense. For example, an azure blue is a high chroma colour, while navy has low chroma thanks to the dampening influence of black.
“Silver had it’s reign in the 2000s—from 2001 to 2005, it was the most popular colour,” says Lockhart. “But as silver goes down, some of the more chromatic colours will move into the top five area.”
Lots of consumers are influenced by the times they live in, so it’s no coincidence that a conservative grayscale has been popular throughout the economic recession of the late 2000s. However, Lockhart has noticed an increase in drivers buying second and third cars these days, and that optimism is often reflected in their colour choices too.
“Now there’s a little more freedom in the economic situation, so people are starting to have a little more fun with colour,” she says.
It may be a while before we’re carefree enough for cars in pink and yellow, but 2016 is all set to see more charismatic colours across the market. After all, a car is an extension of yourself, and colours have many dimensions and different connotations.
“On a vehicle, the colour of the car is the first thing you see,” as Lockhart says. “It’s the personality of the car itself.”