What your car color says about you

Once popular silver now ranks 2nd behind white as the color of choice for car buyers

Like fashion designers, automobile manufacturers gather all the data they can to formulate their predictions of colors that will appeal to consumers. They also have to rely on psychology and cultural influences that can have an effect on color preference, especially in turbulent economic times.

Due to uncertainties posed by the global recession, the DuPont color design staff recently consulted two experts for their opinions on potential psychological and anthropological factors that might skew color trends.

Cultural and Societal Impact of Color Choices

Dr. Peter Weil is an associate professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Delaware. According to Weil, the range of colors of which people are aware is important, because all societies assign certain values to colors.

“Some colors are indicators that a person is doing well," said Weil. “Silver, for example, has been associated with high status, especially during the post-Sept. 11 economic boom. The popularity of silver began to wane, though, about two years ago."

Silver ranked as the top color in the DuPont Global Automotive Color Popularity Reports from 2000 to 2006 – an astounding seven-year reign. The switch to white as the top color coincides with Weil’s — and many economists’ – estimates of the beginning of the current economic recession.

“White is associated with transition," said Weil. “But it’s interesting that much of the switch was to whites with special effects, such as pearl." So even though people shifted to white, he continued, it was to a more luxurious and durable looking white rather than the plain white that they remembered as “chalking" easily and appearing bland and institutional.

Psychology of Color

Dr. Kayta Gajdos is a Pennsylvania psychologist in private practice who uses color as a tool in psychotherapy.

“While color choice can indicate mood, specific colors can also evoke certain feelings," said Gajdos. “People need more color in their lives to make them feel better, especially in bad times," said Gajdos.

An individual’s color preference may also be associated with left-brain or right-brain dominance. People with a left-brain orientation tend to be logical, analytical and objective in their decision-making, said the psychologist. A person with left-brain tendencies might be more influenced by practical considerations than aesthetics. For example, a left-brain dominant person might lean toward colors that will not show dirt and would be more visible in the dark. Right-brain thinkers, however, are more intuitive and might be more spontaneous in their color choices.

According to Gajdos, predicting color preference is complicated by the plethora of colors available. But despite the wide range of shades and effects offered by automakers, experts such as Texas psychologist Dr. Steven R. Vazquez, originator of a technique called Emotional Transformation Therapy, agree on certain general color associations:

Red or light violet – passion

Deep red – security

Blue – communication

Blue-green – wholeness

Indigo – understanding

Yellow-green – empowered/assertive

Orange – self-esteem/confidence

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