Silver reached a new three-year peak in popularity throughout the world in 2002, driven by consumers' correlation of the colour with high tech equipment, precision and performance, according to the 50th anniversary edition of the DuPont Automotive Colour Popularity Report, which predicts future vehicle colour trends.

The report says silver's popularity today is almost twice as high as in the late 1970s when it last dominated the colour rankings trends and it is predicted to remain strong for the next couple of years as new warmer gold or cooler blue hues give it more visual interest.

Silver, ranked 23% overall in North America, topped the colour selections for luxury, full and intermediate, and sports/compact vehicle segments and was a strong second to white for light trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles.

Second placed white was selected by 15% of consumers and black was the third choice at 12%.

Blue, the second most popular colour in Europe continues to gain strength in North America as it replaces green.

Complementing the strength of silver, medium/dark grey made dramatic gains, capturing 7% of the colour choices, up four places from last year's North American standings.

"DuPont spotted the potential of silver several years ago, even as green was the dominant colour choice in the US and blue and white led in Europe," said DuPont Automotive Colour marketing manager Robert Daily.

"Grey, whether dark and mysterious or pale pewter, will extend the influence of this family of neutral colours because it conveys a sense of richness, especially for luxury SUVs and light trucks."

RIGHT ON THE MONEY WITH SILVER

Daily underscores consumers' growing affinity for technology as a central factor in silver's rapid rise. Equally important, he says that silver and techno-grey accentuate the crisp lines of today's edgy designs for the new generation of luxury sport vehicles as well as full/intermediate size passenger cars.

DuPont is developing a range of textures through coarse or fine metallic flake effects for this and other trend colours.

"A colour surge this strong generally runs a seven-year cycle, from its initial quick rise through its fall below the top three colours," said Daily.

"We continue our watch on the interest of blue as a possible leading colour. Blue is the lone chromatic colour choice in the top rankings otherwise dominated by neutrals such as silver/grey, white and black."

DuPont 2002 colour trend research also shows:

*  Blue, conveying calm, stable optimism continues to push down green. The former top colour in the 1990s, green is stabilising between 5 and 8% among top colour choices in all vehicle segments.

*  Red metallics, expressing enthusiasm and energy, are shaking up the luxury and sport compact segments.

*  Light brown at 6.4% of overall segments continues to make significant gains in popularity.

*  Once a middle-of-the-road colour, light brown has been infused with gold metallic effects, making current hues more vibrant.

HOT CARS, COOL COLOURS

Expressive niche colours, such as the "anniversary red" finish on the 50th anniversary Chevrolet Corvette and the coral finish on the Limited Edition 007 Ford Thunderbird, are examples of how low-volume colours are making a high-profile public impact.

"While these colours may represent a romantic look into the past, they have been updated and revised for these modern classic designs," said Daily.

'70S SILVER, A PROLOGUE TO TODAY
When silver last topped DuPont colour trend charts in 1979, leading two out of three vehicle categories, white and black were also among the top six vehicle colours.

Browns and beiges had gained increasing favour by the end of the 1970s, as DuPont had predicted several years earlier.

As automotive designers began to shift away from the "econo-box" profile, silver captured the emerging spirit of larger, more aerodynamic vehicle shapes and the emergence of light trucks and SUVs, which now account for over 50% of vehicle sales in North America.