BASF automotive colour expert Jon Hall says that silver, one of the most popular automotive colours today, will give way to increasing preference for shades of blue for vehicles in North America over the next few model years.

The supplier of automotive paints works with manufacturers to forecast the trends that will influence product designs and consumer preferences and to identify new directions in colour.

"Silver is the hot shade on a worldwide basis right now,” Hall said.

“This is certainly true in North America and to an even greater extent in Japan and especially Europe. Silver has been a popular colour in Europe and Japan over a longer period as a result of traditional consumer preferences in those regions. American consumers have typically liked more colour options, but the popularity of silver in the North American market has been unmistakable, as anyone who has been to a new car lot lately knows.

"The preference for silver has been fuelled by a tremendous interest in high technology and in machines. There has been a fascination with the whole 'machine look' and silver really fit that high-tech feel," Hall added, adding that this interest has been reflected in many aspects of automotive design as well.

Over the next few model years, Hall said, consumers in North America will increasingly turn to shades of blue as a representation of stability.

"The resurgence in blues really will be the important trend in North America. Our cars are an important expression of our personalities, but events in the world around us strongly influence our selection as well," Hall said.

"In North America, people have seen the collapse of the technology bubble, the shock of terrorist attacks and the onset of recession. As a result of these events, tastes will change. At some point soon, consumers will tire of so much silver and grey. People will want things that are beautiful and stimulating with more colour. Blue is desirable and it is one of the basic colours that people love that can be made better," Hall said.

"Look for a greater variety of blues that are more colourful, that include more metallic and more sparkle. In the ebb and flow of things, 20 years ago light blues were some of the most popular in the industry. I think we'll see a resurgence of some of these light blues with a more contemporary feel," Hall said.

One North American trend that Hall sees continuing is increasing interest in hot rods and new cars that reflect a hot rod heritage and the rich colours that go with them.

"Hot rods were really cool cars and they also reflect a simpler time in the minds of many people. These cars will be an outlet for bold colour statements like reds and yellows. There's nothing subtle about a hot rod and those colours will reflect the personalities of the cars," Hall said.

Hall said that the preference for silvers in North America is even more pronounced in Japan and Europe and that silver reflects a more sustained preference in these regions.

"In Europe, you will see a trend toward shades of blue but it will never surpass the preference for silvers and greys. In Japan, silvers also will continue to be popular but volume trends also will include more reds and blacks," Hall said.

Hall noted that colour trends tend to be played out over several model years and typically are more conservative than fashion trends.

"Unlike clothes, a car isn't something that you can hide in the back of your closet at the end of a season, which is why you don't see too many hot pinks out there," he said.

According to BASF data, the most popular colours for 2002 model year passenger cars in North America were: silver, 28%; white, 17%; black, 15%; blue, 10%; gray, 9%; beige, 8%; green, 6%; red, 5%; orange, 2%; yellow/gold, less than 1%.

The most popular colours for 2002 model year light trucks in North America were: white, 17%; black, 16%; grey, 14%; silver, 13%; red, 12%; blue, 12%; green, 8%; beige, 5%; yellow/gold, 3%; orange, less than 1%.