Sunny or sophisticated: what do car colours say about the driver?

- Why do car buyers pick certain car paint colours and how do manufacturers like Hyundai choose?

The reasons we pick certain colours for our cars are as wide-ranging as the paint schemes themselves. Personal taste and preference are also influenced by cultural expectations.

Gender, prevailing fashions, and historic trends also have a part to play. For example, mirroring the spirit of the ‘Swinging Sixties’, cars of the 1950s, and 60s tended to sport more vivid colours. Meanwhile, American lovers of ‘muscle’ cars are often known for choosing extremely bright colours such as green and orange.

According to Forbes, today the most popular car paint colours are white, black, grey and silver accounting for over 70% of the total world car production. These shades are often associated with luxury cars making them attractive to many car owners.

Red, blue and brown/beige make up the next most popular choices while all other colours account for less than 5%.

Europe's most popular car colour is white

A report by coating company Axalta reveals that white is Europe’s most popular colour with 27%. It is widely used in company fleet vehicles and as white reflects sunlight, it’s also the colour of choice for southern European countries like Greece and Turkey which have hot climates all year round.

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders also show that white is the UK’s favourite car paint colour for the third year in a row, taking over from silver.

Some commentators say one factor is the “Apple effect”, associating white with trendy and futuristic products. Grey and black are also more popular in Europe than any other world region.

The colour black signifies sophistication

Along with personal preferences, there might also be subconscious reasons why car buyers choose certain paint colours. For example, white is said to signify a love of new, clean things, and a perfectionist owner. Black points to timeless and sophisticated, blue means trustworthy, while sunshine yellow conveys a joyful disposition and a person who is young at heart. If our cars are said to be an extension of ourselves, it seems there is a different colour for every personality.

While the preference for white, grey, and black cars hasn’t changed much over the decades, the colours themselves can come in different shades and finishes. Therefore, along with colour, car owners must choose the type of paint they want. In general, the more expensive the finish, the more it costs to maintain. Typically, metallic paint was the product of choice but higher-end premium paints have become increasingly common.


Car makers use colour development teams

Today, car manufacturers use paint colour development teams who work based on research and predicted trends, often years in advance. They’re also charged with coming up with memorable names for the finishes.

For example, depending on what market you’re buying in, the Hyundai Tucson is available in shades such as ara blue, stargazing blue, phantom black, platinum silver, white sand, and intense copper.

At Hyundai Motor’s manufacturing plant at Nošovice, Czech Republic, 500 high-tech robots work to produce 1500 cars each day where the car painting process is among those which is automated. The Hyundai IONIQ is produced at Hyundai's Ulsan plant in Korea, the world's largest single automotive production facility where its takes 7 hours to paint one IONIQ car, using 7 litres of paint.