After silver and black, white has the potential to be the third most significant colour in the global automotive market, according to BASF Coatings.

New colours offered to automakers will include white with soft mica effects, white with extreme sparkle, or white in variants with gradated hues such as cream colour and silver-white.

“White is classy and likely to be a trend-setter, for instance, in additional layers of clearcoat containing a light gold shimmer or as an exclusive matte white, the supplier said.

According to the forecast, white will make its mark in the exclusive and premium vehicle category and, longer term, become more popular with small and mid-size car buyers.

“The interplay between a white exterior and a coordinated interior is particularly eye-catching,” a BASF spokesman said. “White is actually a very distinctive colour. In the automotive sector in particular, it stands out from the crowd.”

Twenty years ago, white had a 20% share of the market on European roads. In Germany, this share has now fallen to 2-3%. In southern Europe, however, the figure is currently much higher. In Italy, for example, one out of three cars leaving the dealerships is white. In general, the farther south, the lighter the colour of the cars on the road.

In Japan, white is considered to be the colour of purity and clarity. Twenty-seven percent of all car buyers there go for white and it is practically mandatory for sports cars.

BASF reckons white has been making a comeback for about two years.

“It’s not just hype or a short-term trend, but rather a ‘metatrend’ that is making its way through all areas of design and everyday culture. Fashion, furniture, and consumer electronics are all pioneers in the white revolution,” the company said.

The iPod is a good example.

Silver, the ‘metatrend’ of the last decade, generally stood for infatuation with technology, belief in the future, and inviolability. While the high-tech trend was ground-breaking, it was not a panacea.

White stands for a focus on the essential, “a new aesthetic purism”, as the spokesman put it.

In 2006, dark colours or light shades of silver dominated German roads and over 45% of newly registered cars were silver, one in four cars was black and one in six was blue. Only 15% of newly registered cars were red, green, or some other colour.

Back in 1980, 26% of newly registered cars were red, while in 2006 the figure had dropped to 4.5%.

This trend has been observed all over the world with approximately 30% of all cars in Europe and Asia silver, followed by black and blue.

In North America, one out of five cars is silver. The global trend toward silver is attributed to rental car agencies and purchasers of company car fleets, who prefer neutral colours.

But BASF said white would not be toppling silver’s dominance of the automotive market.

It added there is a trend toward mixed shades that combine colours such as green, blue, and grey while blue, green, or brown increasingly is being added to silver.

Silver will also be complemented by other metallic colours such as copper, bronze, gold, and platinum.