Colours vs Shades: European Colour Trends Report

30 March 2017 | by Michael Gooderham

Chemicals conglomerate BASF’s coatings division has published its annual report analysing trends in the paint colours and finishes demanded by European car buyers. While the continent didn’t drastically change its overall colour preferences in 2016, shades and finishes became significantly more diverse, which along with an increase in special-order paint, falls in line with a “social megatrend towards individualisation” observed by the company.

Around 78% of cars sold in Europe were painted in achromatic (greyscale) colours, with white remaining the clear favourite over black and grey, while silver saw a decline. Blue accounted for a 10% segment overall despite representing roughly 45% of all chromatic colours, while brown took a surprising third place in the chromatic league, behind red - time to dust off that old ‘Carmine’ coloured Austin Princess, maybe?

Basf Colour Trends Overall Proportions

The 10% who bought blue were a particularly picky bunch, reportedly ordering over 100 different variations from “very dark black-blue” to “very light and silvery blue” (the latter also proving popular for Geneva show cars this year). Grey is close behind at around 90 shades.

It’s not just about hues of blue, though; across the board, there was strong demand for special effects and finishes, created using aluminium, pearlescent and glass-flake pigments either individually or in combination, to create the desired shine.

It’s as if buyers are trying to balance putting their own stamp on their car against avoiding the risk of buying something in a wild undesirable colour that adds depreciation. The compromise is thus to request a commonplace paint shade with an uncommon shimmer, perhaps one to accentuate the ever more adventurous styling of even mainstream cars.

NB: the inner circle or wheel in the above graphics shows popularity of chromatic colours. The outer ring shows the overall trends.