Paint company shows off car colours of the future

Only a handful of people know what new vehicles will look like in 2009. But automotive paint supplier PPG Industries already has a good idea what colours those vehicles will be.

Blue will get more popular in the next four years as more dramatic shades are introduced, such as watery blue-greens and smoky lilacs. Yellows and oranges will get richer and warmer.
Reds will glow in deep shades of cranberry and wine, and dark brown will make a comeback.

“Not everything in here is gospel, but it’s a general direction,” said Lorene Boettcher, PPG’s manager of global design and colour marketing, as she stood amid dozens of swatches of colour at the company’s suburban Detroit office.

Each fall, Pittsburgh-based PPG hosts a colour tour for auto industry officials so they can look at upcoming trends and choose colours they can refine further in their own studios. General Motors and DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group are among PPG’s largest automotive customers. The show travels the world for the next nine months.

Future colours are identified from trends in fashion, interior design, architecture and even cosmetics, Boettcher said.

As hybrid vehicles get more popular, drivers may be looking for earthy, natural tones. Redwood, a trend in home furnishing, is inspiring natural shades of red. Luxury makers, always looking for ways set their vehicles apart, might choose rich blends that change slightly depending on the light, or paints with flecks of silver-coated glass.

PPG has 20 colourists in North America, Europe, Japan, South Korea, China, Malaysia, India and Australia. They work separately to identify trends and then bring all their ideas together for the show. This year’s show features 130 new colours.

Silver is the worldwide favourite right now, making up 37% of vehicles produced. White is second at 14,4%. Blue and black are right behind, at 12,7% and 11% respectively. Red, green, beige and other shades each command less than 10% of the market.

Silver will remain popular for several more years, Boettcher said, and PPG is trying to enhance it by experimenting with blends such as silvery green and technology that makes paint look like liquid metal.

Each region has its quirks. North America likes paint colours that are more conservative but with sparkly flecks, although the colours are brighter than they were a decade ago, Boettcher said.

Emerging Asian markets like bright, hopeful colours, including red and gold.

“All of our customers are always looking for the next brighter red,” said Jerry Koenigsmark, manager of automotive colour design for North America. Koenigsmark said new technology, such as red-coated flakes of aluminum, is helping the company achieve that goal.

In Europe, the palette is larger, less sparkly and funkier.

Because cars there are smaller, auto makers experiment with colours such as pink and kelly green. Blacks tinted with red and green also are growing in popularity.

Boettcher said natural tones will be a hit, including leathery browns and sophisticated, muted metallics. One colour she showed was inspired by cappuccino, others by burlap and handmade dye.

Many auto executives have steered away from brown because it was a popular colour when the industry went through tough times in the 1970s, she said. But that will start to change.

“That is something that’s going to start at the high end and work its way down to the mainstream,” Boettcher said.—Sapa-AP