Every car color a company like Dupont develops has to be tested, and there's no way to compress that into a short period of time. GM is already working on its color palette for the 2010 model year and doing its best to determine what buyers will want in that not-so-far-off future. And GM's bet is that consumers will want more color in their cars.
According to Dupont, for the last six years the most popular color for North American new vehicles has been silver. Fully 18 percent of new vehicles sold in America during 2005 were painted silver, coming in just a tick ahead of white. Coming up fast is gray (not much different from silver), which saw its market share leap to 15 percent during 2005 from 10 percent during 2004. In a computerized age, silver evokes precision and high technology, and with the addition of color-shifting metallic elements, silver doesn't always look like silver from every angle.
Three new car colors go into each of GM's plants every year, and three old colors come out — 10 colors are offered on mainstream models and 14 on luxury machines. It's Christopher Webb's job to track what's going on in the culture at large and with fashion in particular, to determine which car colors the company should bet on. (He develops 22 new colors each year.) "Blue is coming back as a color," he explains. "The Chevy SS models have a color, Laser Blue, which is their feature color. And if blues are rising, greens are fading. Blue is the big story across all our brands."
Alongside those blues, Webb has also placed orange hues in three-quarters of GM's plants and orange may just be hitting its stride when the new Camaro arrives. He's even predicting that brown — that staple of the earth-tone '70s — will soon find its way back onto 21st-century luxury cars. "Brown is the color synonymous with high-end names," he says.