Color Wars!

2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country
All Photos by Randy Stern

What color speaks to you?

It depends on your mood really. Your personality, above all. How you view the world – or how the world views you. But, ultimately, color comes from your life – from the clothes you wear, the colors you choose for your home, etc.

There are arguments over colors – and the psychology of them. Perhaps if you're into the Green Lantern series, where there is a battle amongst the colors of Lanterns or factions, then you probably understand these arguments over the importance of color in our lives.

When it comes to automobiles, we often think in two terms about colors: How individual we are and how much we care about or car. An individual thinker would rather pick a color that speaks to them. If it looks great on a car – and both the car and color reflects the personality of the owner – then, you can see where the relationship between car and owner will go for the term of the car loan.

Every year, the leading supplier of paints and finishes to the automotive industry, PPG, compiles a survey of color trends amongst new automobile owners. Year after year, PPG found the most popular automotive color is silver. If you combine the silver family, including grays and charcoals, PPG says that this color accounted for 31 percent of all automobiles sold in North America. The high number of silvers, grays and charcoals are not accounted just for fleet vehicle sales, but retail production as well. By the way, silver has grown in popularity from two years ago, where it accounted for 20 percent of all vehicles sold in North America.

Not only is this the trend in North America – it's worldwide. The 31 percent figure is in line for sales of silver, gray and charcoal-painted automobiles in Europe and Asia/Pacific – where the figures scales up to 33 percent.

What's after silver/gray/charcoal? Black and white – both actually tied for 18 percent of all vehicles sold in North America, also according to PPG. Right behind black and white, there's red and blue. These same color trends are also universal as well.

The survey made me think how I felt about a car's color. I always believed in being individual in the choice I make when I select a color for an automobile. My last new car purchase 20 years ago, resulting in getting the color I wanted – the rarer color among the three available for this particular model. I refused to buy the silver and red it was offered – and got a medium blue metallic that looked the best for this hatchback coupe. It also came with a blue interior – which is rare these days. Despite being an upscale brand, the vehicle did not exude any ounce of luxury. I wanted at least to reflect my personality at the time – and it worked. That Concord Blue Metallic 1991 Acura Integra RS coupe was a nice car indeed.

What about today's automobile colors? Which ones would I prefer these days? Instead of singling out certain colors, let me go through the entire PPG survey and see how I feel about each one…

2017 Lexus CT 200h F Sport

SILVER/GRAY/CHARCOAL: Clearly, I'm not a fan of silver – but I understand why it’s popular. At night, especially on unlit roads, you can see a silver car from the distance. Just like white, silver was made for safety purposes. So, it's a safe choice. In my book, safe also means boring. That’s just my opinion, though. However, the silver category also includes grays and charcoals. Though less obvious than silver on unlit roads, they do exude a luxurious air about them. On some cars, certain shades of gray speak to the business-like manner of how goes about its business. Combined with a black interior (not highly recommended mostly warmer climates), and you can make a deal on the spot with a client. I prefer a richer (slightly darker than medium) shade of gray metallic when I want a vehicle to speak for me. It may not be detectable on dark roads, but it works just fine in the daytime.

2016 GMC Sierra Denali 4X4 Crew Cab

BLACK: Black is more of a livery or a sports car color to me. Though anyone who studies color can tell you that black is the presence of all color, which is quite an attractive proposition when considering it. My problem with black is not the maintenance of the car – washing the car, for example. It's the issue of driving it in hot days over distances. If you expose your cargo inside a black car, how well will the leftover air keep it cool after a certain time? It is an extreme that works on some occasions, but not for all climate use. But, once you get over the climate issues, black can be coolest color for the right car…or truck…or SUV…

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT

WHITE: The extreme opposite of black, it also shares some of the problems with black cars. Keeping it clean and free from exposed blemishes, including dents and dings, is a challenge on a white car. The biggest advantage of having a white car – you're the safest vehicle on the road. Everyone can see a white vehicle form anywhere – even on dark roads. I try to avoid white because of its attraction to dirt – but if I had to play it safe (in very warm climates, especially), I'll manage with a white vehicle. Pearlescent white is a different story, because it has an effect that makes it stand out. But, as a rule to match my personality, it's not me.

2017 Subaru Impreza Sport Sedan

RED: Red means many things – rage, speed traps and…ehem…anyway. It is a sexy color, but pure red scares me. If a red is given a metallic or pearlescent treatment, darkened a bit, I would prefer that. Certain dark shades of red – up to a Dark Cherry shade – exude a luxurious image upon the vehicle. These are metallic shades where the red is richer in tone and clarity. They are seen as a starting point of livable red that can play decoy for speed trappers. As for Fire Engine Red, Candy Apple Red and Ferrari Red – make sure you have enough for the fine when you're caught by the troopers!

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD

BLUE: My favorite color. No, seriously…it is! However, I have certain shades that work better than others. Darker shades with metallic or pearlescent treatments get higher priority than very light shades. Medium blues do not hold favor with me as it once did 20 years ago – unless it's somewhere between a bright to dull tone. Nowadays, light blues tend to be more silver than blue. It's tough to pinpoint a perfect shade of blue – it's how you wear it, really.

2017 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4

NATURAL TONES: Beige equals boring. Though the number of silver cars on the road trumps the number of beige ones, we must ask whether we walked away from another visible color day and night? Beige, or a muted gold color, is indeed a safe color. Sadly, it just doesn't cut it for me. The natural color family also includes darker shades in the brown/bronze/gold/orange realm. Richer tones that speak of uniqueness and class – combined with a beige/camel interior (leather, please!) – is what I would prefer than just beige. I must also note that within the natural tones family are yellow cars. That color just doesn't do most vehicles justice – unless it's for Taxicab purposes.

2015 Ford F-150 King Ranch SuperCrew 4X4

GREEN: There was a time when a green car was cool. I'm not talking a Kia Niro, but one in the color of Forest Green or something similar in tone. Still, a green car no longer holds cache as it once did. There are exceptions, such as a British Racing Green for a MINI Cooper or an Aston Martin V8 Vantage. There are variations that will play with your retinas. A few manufacturers offered a lime/avocado mix that works well for specific cars showing either heritage or fun. Yet, one would hope they never bring back the color scheme was that on my former 1974 Ford Mustang II Ghia…

2016 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack

ANY OTHER SHADES: Purple. On a Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack – absolutely! On a mainstream vehicle – depends. For me – not so much.

What color speaks to you? I hope one you can live with for five years until you make your final payment to the bank. There are colors that are truly timeless. Then there are other colors…

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