Oct 19, 2021 - Economy

Car colors as diverse and complex as the people who drive them

A rainbow of colors that will be popular in cars in the coming years, from BASF's 2021 collection.

Endless variation is the theme of BASF's automotive color trends collection. Photo: BASF

Henry Ford famously said of the Model T: "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black."

  • Cars of the future will be painted in more diverse, textured and complex colors, say the experts at giant paint supplier BASF.

Why it matters: Color is an emotional and subjective consideration in buying a car, and it plays an important role in consumers' buying preferences, notes Paul Czornij, BASF’s head of automotive color design in the Americas.

  • "Remember, your car is an outward expression of who you are," Czornij tells Axios. "The color hue, how bold or muted it is, depends on what you’re trying to project about your personality."

Driving the news: BASF's coatings division just released its Automotive Color Trends collection for 2021-22, which it called "Superposition" — borrowing a phenomenon from quantum mechanics — referring to a state where "the limitation of binary systems is overcome."

  • "In other words, things aren’t just black or white, heads or tails, one or zero," according to BASF. "The world has an uncountable number of variations, and this collection immerses itself in those variations."
  • Color trends vary by region too, reflecting unique cultures in different parts of the world.

What they're saying: There is no red or blue — all colors are open to interpretation, reflecting the diversity and non-binary aspects of today's society. Even familiar colors feature new effects, subtle color gradients and shades that vary, depending on the angle of view.

Between the lines: One example is "Knowing Ignorance," the name of a featured color for luxury cars in China, which "begins with greenish sparkles on the light side, then moves to a warm and brownish space," BASF explains.

  • Finally, it "gives way to a reddish fill in its dark side — all showing on the same surface."

In North America, where consumers favor different aesthetics than Chinese customers, "the color spaces are anchored in optimism and resilience, and show the potential for humanity to move forward despite the challenges."

  • "Lambent Earth," for example, "presents the essence of the bountiful energy and fragility in the world, combining a fiery glow with a natural brown."

What to watch: The color trends report is meant to inspire automotive designers, so you might see versions of these emotional colors in vehicle showrooms in three to five years.

Image of a car model in "Lambent Earth," a coppery brown color, from BASF
"Lambent Earth" is a fiery brown that balances energy and fragility. Photo: BASF
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