Blue could be a breakout color for cars in 2014.
But it's going to take a monumental shift in consumers' preferences to overtake white, which remains the top shade for vehicles worldwide for the third consecutive year, according to the annual color trends report compiled by Downtown-based coatings giant PPG Industries.
Blue is emerging as a bold choice for upscale sporty models and some midsize vehicles, said Jane Harrington, manager, color styling, for PPG's automotive original equipment manufacturer coatings business based in Troy, Mich.
At the North American International Auto Show last January in Detroit, Maserati and Bentley both featured bright blue luxury models, she said.
Across all vehicle price ranges, white overtook silver as the most popular color in 2011 after the shiny metal spent a decade at the top of the chart. PPG's data -- based on research by color experts who work with automobile manufacturers to determine what shades of paints the company should produce for new vehicles -- showed that 25 percent of cars built in 2013 were white.
Silver and black tied for second, with each accounting for 18 percent of cars followed by gray at 12 percent; red, 9 percent; natural hues such as brown and orange, 8 percent; and blue, 7 percent.
White appeals to many buyers who believe neutral shades equate to easier resale, thus making it a safe investment. "A car is a large ticket item, and consumers are sometimes conservative when they go to look for a car," Ms. Harrington said.
But all whites aren't plain vanilla, she said.
"There's a lot of variety in white depending on the vehicle style. There's creamy white, or a solid stark white, or white metallic or white pearl. Each one gives [a vehicle] a different look."
For PPG, automobile coatings are a significant segment of the company's global business and total about 50 percent of revenues in its industrial coatings unit.
For the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, sales of all industrial coatings, including automotive, totaled $1.2 billion, up 10 percent from the same period in 2012. Earnings for the segment were $181 million, up 18 percent over a year ago.
Cindy Niekamp, senior vice president, automotive coatings, said the business benefited from robust car sales as the global economy improves. She said she is optimistic about supplying coatings to automakers in all regions, especially in Asia where PPG's customers are planning to invest in facilities in China.
Most popular colors for cars worldwide
White .............. 25 percent
Silver .............. 18 percent
Black .............. 18 percent
Gray ................ 12 percent
Red ................... 9 percent
Natural hues ..... 8 percent
Blue .................. 7 percent
Green ............... 2 percent
Other ................ 1 percent
Source: PPG Industries
Joyce Gannon: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1580.