Culture

60 Shades of Auto : How Research and Trends Help Decide the Color of Your Car

Aug 1, 2018

Photo Courtesy: basf.com

Whether it is matte, pearlescent, or even just a high-gloss, the exterior paint of your ride becomes part of its personality. The selection of a new car color may seem like a simple process, but behind the scenes there are years of planning. Researchers look at trends in technology, pop culture, and even the general tone of a regional demographic years ahead of a product launch. Each year, BASF®, the largest chemical producer in the world, produces over 60 color designs for automotive manufacturers to help them plan for the future. The entire color-creation process takes over 18 months. Below highlights the trends and research that could impact the shade of your next dream car.

Paint Invokes Feelings

When the team at BASF ® begins their research, they start by exploring the specific territory and examine local trends. Based on social moods and feelings of groups in specific markets, the team generates “trend world” buckets. Often, a person’s car is a reflection of their personality and just as much of a fashion statement as their wardrobe. A buyer may be drawn towards a red car subconsciously, if they want to be seen as a fast or sexy person. Similarly, people trying to exude power or sophistication might choose a car in black metallic.

Photo Courtesy: basf.com

While this research never aims to predict future personality traits, it does aim to uncover current global trends and cultural shifts that will influence vehicle color choices three to five years down the road. The popularity of environmental vehicles in recent years has led to an increase in certain shades of white and blue. These colors are found to invoke feelings of being clean and reflecting nature. The studies on color have also found that the color blue gives customers a feeling of “trust” from their car. This is why you may see cars like the BMW i3, Chevrolet Bolt, or even the Toyota Prius in various hues of those colors.

Dictated by Culture

Unlike flashy and bright consumer products, such as your phone or clothing, the most popular vehicle colors are often more subtle. Knowing this, researchers will take the design of popular consumer products and adopt them for a more broad use as an automotive paint. In the 2000s, pop culture’s focus on new technology from brands like Apple, which prominently touted shades of white and silver influenced the popular car paints of that era. The colors evoked a sporty and elegant, futuristic and understated, pure tech image.

In recent years, some regions have shifted away from glorifying technology and instead toward celebrating the beauty of the body and other analog objects. This trend has affected the automotive color palettes, and warm, beige colors that mimic aspects of the skin are shaping current predictions. In certain portions of Europe, where vinyl records and retro products are making a resurgence, colors that echo that trend are being suggested, such as a medium light brick-like color. Who knows, maybe the popular avocado green color from the 1970s will make it back into popular culture in the US?

Not surprisingly, Studies in North America found an ever-increasing encroachment of technology on our daily lives. In a region where technology has replaced human interaction, a stronger call has been made for more simplicity, transparency and clarity.

Photo Courtesy: basf.com

Based on this, BASF® researchers looked to create a color that reflected the increasing people-centered approach to technology. The assigned key color for the North America region that resulted was Undercurrent Blue. This very dark navy blue exudes a sense of mystery and celebration of self. Most colors for North America represented the “Translucid” collection, which combines transparent and lucid.

While areas like North America are dealing with the prevalence of technology, Asian-Pacific studies found a new cultural trend in self-confidence and a desire to be unique. That trend was then expressed with a lustrous white pearl, standing for the region’s unique spirit. There has also been a worldwide appreciation of the Asian culture and young people that have been struggling for recognition are now finding a voice in the recent economic upswing. This trend is represented by a deep saturated red with brilliant glass flakes that underlies the sophistication to which the groups are raising their voices. All of these conscious or subconscious cultural trends help shape the future palette of our nation’s roads and extend our national personality to our automobiles.

Future of Paint

While early paints were rather limited in their depth and saturation, new technology has allowed for the creation of more complex colors, such as aluminum. New nano-technologies are helping us create more uniform and thinner aluminum flakes that give an advanced reflection compared to paints in the past. This also allows manufactures to generate their own materials to mix with paint.

For example, you may notice a very prominent gold or brown tinge to any pearl white paint in the past due to the natural mica used in the mixture. According to Paul Czornij, head of design at BASF’s Color Excellence Group, advancements in technology now allow manufacturers to use a synthetic mica mixture that helps create a cleaner blue-tinted pearl white. This subtle change has increased the popularity of this color and transformed the general attitude towards pearl.

Photo Courtesy: basf.com

Improvements in paint have also extended beyond simply dictating the tone of color. New functional paint pigments can act to change the temperature of your car. The researchers at BASF® have been working on a new black color that uses Solaric technologies. This solar management system reflects near infrared light and works to reduce the temperature on the surface and inside of the car. This development could lead to a future where your black car with black leather won’t be such an oven on a hot summer day.

With all the advancements in automotive technology, we often overlook the complexity of our car’s glossy exterior. The next time you see vehicles debut in a darker orange, matte gray, or even a pearl white, you may now consider the years of research that influenced the palette.

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