3 Trends Shaping Future Automotive Paint Colors in North America

Color plays a big role in a consumer's decision of which vehicle to drive off the lot. It's deeply psychological. Often consumers aren't even aware of the factors that may subtly influence their preferences, and the color they select then becomes an external expression of who they are to the world.

For automakers and coating suppliers, the decision of which colors to offer were made years earlier due to the long-lead vehicle production times. This makes the color prediction and selection process a delicate mix of art and science.

Design experts at BASF have significant expertise in this space, conducting extensive research and considering how the economic landscape, pop culture trends and technology will impact color psychology and purchasing habits for vehicle models three to five years from now.

In addition to aesthetics, BASF considers the functionality of its coatings as electric and self-driving vehicles become more mainstream.

North America Color Predictions

"Through our trend research in this region, we saw that there is a greater acceptance of human flaws, diversity is celebrated and people were more enthusiastic about science and space travel than in past years. All of this inspired our collection of the North American colors," said Paul Czornij, head of design, BASF Coatings, Color and Design.

"This is one of the most diverse color collections BASF has ever introduced. There is a juxtaposition between achromatic colors such as greys and pastels that reflect the essentialism of urbanization and bright, chromatic colors that are optimistic, luxurious and playful."

Trend No.1: Science and Space Travel

The connection of the real and virtual world as well as the relationship of earth and space is captured in BASF's key color, Atomium Sky, predicted to influence 2022 vehicle models in North America.

Atomium Sky: a deeply saturated blue with a medium coarseness that transitions to a softer, semi-opaque hue, exuding playfulness while demonstrating futuristic and forward-thinking.

"The name of the color speaks directly to the increased interest in science and space. The Atomium is a structure in Brussels that forms the shape of an iron molecule, designed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo, and sky conjures thoughts of the solar system and outer space," said Czornij.

For the second consecutive year BASF selected a blue as its key color, demonstrating its growing prominence in this region. Last year the key color was Undercurrent Blue, a dark navy blue color.

Trend No.2: Self-Driving Cars

"Self-driving technology was a core part of this year's conversation. We chose colors that may contribute to public perception and acceptance of autonomous vehicles. We also incorporated innovative pigments into a few of our darker colors, such as Centripetal Blue, to increase reflectivity for LiDAR technologies." said Czornij.

Centripetal Blue: a blue-black color with a medium coarse sparkle. This functional color is designed to enhance detectability and performance for autonomous vehicles.

North America_ Automotive Paint Colors_Kleur Kleur: a bright, vibrant red inspires a feeling of connectedness with a high saturation that makes it more visible.

Trend No. 3: Urbanization

"Our research indicates that grey will continue to be a popular color choice globally. It's a nice color space because there is room for variation and innovation to create a beautiful, neutral color. My design counterparts in Europe and Asia both selected a grey as the key color for their regions," Czornij continues.

"Grey depicts urbanization. There's a minimalism, an essentialism about it that is reflective of city centers and booming metropolises."

North America_ Automotive Paint Colors_ Metals Mettle Metal's Mettle: a medium to dark grey with a coarseness and a dynamic sparkle demonstrates the cool rawness and minimalism of urbanism.

Global Theme: Keep It Real 

As innovations such as artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and robotic industrialization become realities, the human element and connection becomes increasingly important.

Through its research, BASF discovered that the need to stay authentic when technology blurs the lines between reality and artificiality will influence future automotive color choices.

This need to 'Keep it Real' is the driving force behind the 2018/19 BASF Automotive Color Trends Collection, a suite of 65 concept colors that BASF develops and shares with automakers for consideration, selection and refinement for vehicle models in the production pipeline.

BASF Automotive Paint Color Trends 18/19_65 Global Colors

Check out the media kit for more information on BASF and the 2018-19 Automotive Color Trends collection.