Car color choice may have more to do with where you live than you might think

New studies from Ford and DuPont reveal color trends of European and U.S. customers.

Suzanne Ashe
Suzanne Ashe has been covering technology, gadgets, video games, and cars for several years. In addition to writing features and reviews for magazines and Web sites, she has contributed to daily newspapers.
Suzanne Ashe
3 min read


Choosing a car is more than body type, the number of cup holders, and what's under the hood. Car choice is also about color choice and a new survey just released by Ford reveals that color trends may have more to do with geography.

Bright, vibrant car colors such as yellow, green, and orange may look exciting, but according to the study, U.S. customers on the coasts and customers in most European countries prefer the classic core colors such as white, black, silver, and gray.

Ford Motor Company this week unveiled the new 2013 Taurus SHO at the 2011 New York International Auto Show. The SHO looks great in red, but will it be more popular in silver? Ford

According to Ford's annual look at U.S. car buying preferences as well as an international color study by DuPont, core colors make up more than half of all cars sold.

Gray and silver are so popular they dot the streets and highways in New York and Los Angeles like lost paperclips. While white is the preferred color for drivers in the fog-covered city of San Francisco, Boston drivers prefer black.

According to the study, Midwestern drivers prefer red, and drivers in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh like green. And Phoenix and Miami customers like the warm colors of sunset such as orange and gold.

"The trend continues to be toward core colors--the classics," said Susan Swek, Ford's group chief designer for color and materials. "The classics are continually upgraded--and always with a modern twist."

Ford has taken the study results to heart as the automaker introduces new versions of familiar core colors.

"In Europe, we've added tricoat pearl technology to give grayscale colors a glimmer. And in North America we are creating more tinted clear coats for a rich, luscious effect," Swek said. "It's important to get the right color into the market at the right time. Too early, and it won't have registered on customers' radar. Too late, and the popularity of a particular color may have already reached its peak."

A new core color for Ford, Silver Diamond PC (for premium colorant), takes silver to a whole new dimension with an "elegant, liquidy look," said Color Designer Jon Hall.

"We're generally paying more attention to fundamental colors," Hall said. "They are 60 percent of the global market. Cars and trucks are a major purchase, and customers think of things like resale value and the fact that they want to be seen in the vehicle for the next few years."

Which colors of cars Europeans want to be seen driving varies by country, the studies revealed. French and Italian motorists like cream-colored vehicles. The Irish like silver; so do the Swedes. Customers in Denmark prefer black, while those in Belgium like gray. Drivers in the Czech Republic choose blue. Nearly half of all vehicles sold in Turkey are white. Black is the color of choice for most drivers in Norway, Portugal, Germany, and Russia.

"Red used to be, far and away, the most popular color," said Vince Show, marketing and product strategy manager for Ford of Europe. "White is in the ascendancy now. Dark grays, blacks, and blues are popular, as they are in men or women's clothing."

Vehicle owners everywhere use color choice to convey messages about themselves, says Julie Francis, of the European Color and Materials team. "There is something very personal to buyers about the color of their cars," Francis said. "When you look at the culture, you can see how fashion and other tastes influence the colors customers choose."