What color will your car be in 2018?

A majority of car shoppers list car color as one of the most important factors in their decision-making process. How do automakers match the right palette to the right model?

Al Goldis/AP/File
A 1951 Oldsmobile Super 88 sedan at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing, Mich. (May 17, 2014).

Sometimes it's hard to identify trends when they're actually trending. In the 1970s, for example, most people just assumed they were living on the whole rainbow; it wasn't until they reached the 80s that they realized how earthtone-centric their clothes, cars, and appliances had been. You could say the same about the 1980s and neon brights, or the 1990s when earthy colors made a comeback.

An entire industry has sprung up around color management, promotion, and prediction--an industry that's a little mysterious and more than a little secretive. But the folks at paint powerhouse PPG have cracked open their doors just a bit to discuss the colors of our near-future cars.

Is color really that important? You bet it is. More than half of all car shoppers--nearly 60 percent, in fact--said that color was a key factor in their purchase decisions. For automakers, matching the right palette to the right model can be the difference between operating in the red or the black.  

Different colors appeal to different groups and generations. For example, a company's youth-oriented city car should probably come in a different range of colors than its conservative, four-door sedan. Or, as PPG's Jane E. Harrington explains:

"Color and styling choices by [automakers] must be responsive to these differences among potential buyers. They need to consider everyone from technology-focused millennials to family-focused baby boomers, monitoring sales data and style trends to try to predict two or three years in advance of a model year what colors and effects they will offer."

Above, you'll see four different palettes that PPG has put together for the 2018 and 2019 model years. The first, Hyper HD, is clearly meant for sporty, tech-heavy vehicles that might be more targeted to younger shoppers. At the other end of the spectrum--literally--is the Lucid Dreams palette, which reads like Fifty Shades of Beige: A Story Of Sheetmetal

Faced with choices like these, automakers can tweak the appearance of any vehicle so that it "explains" itself at first glance. A bright red or yellow might say "powerful", a reflection of a high-powered engine under the hood. A more subdued teal or mauve could suggest "efficient", and so on.

That said, few would argue that any of these colors will unseat white, black, gray, and silver, which remain the four most popular car colors worldwide. But for shoppers who like to mix things up, they offer a few scintillating options.

This article first appeared at The Car Connection.

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