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The world has vanilla tastes in car colours, despite the rainbow of available hues.

White is the most popular colour for new car purchases globally, says an annual report by Axalta Coating Systems, a paint producer that supplies the car industry. In North America and Asia-Pacific, it has been No. 1 since 2006, and is a newcomer to Europe and South America for the top spot, having just replaced silver.

But there are signs that tastes may be shifting. In Canada, says a survey by Desrosiers Automotive Consultants of car owners, black and blue will be the top choices for consumers' next vehicles, with red also showing a strong rise in popularity. Industry experts point to a trend toward vibrant hues; however, they say white will maintain its stranglehold for a few more years.

"When silver became very popular in 2000, it brought all of the other neutral colours with it," says Nancy Lockhart, colour marketing manager for Axalta. "When I say neutral, I mean white, black and grey. They increased as silver increased; there was much less chroma.

"It can be indicative of the fact that we were much more conservative in what we were buying, the economy dropped a little bit. People were buying things that they thought would have good resale; silver, black, they have good resale."

Susan Lampinen, group chief designer for colour and materials for Ford, has seen the colour white go from a 23 per cent global take rate in 2012 to a 29 per cent rate in 2013 and 2014. "You see how white had overtaken silver years ago," Lampinen says. "It really goes back to the technology industry. White was on the original iPod; it really took off around then. And white also infers clean and modern."

But Lockhart has noticed a rise in colour. "The nice thing is, because we do see silver going down in popularity, that will actually pull the other neutrals with it, just like it brought the neutrals up. So what we think we'll see – and what we want to see – is that colour is going to come back. This year we named Radiant Red as '2015 North American automotive colour of the year'; this was a big deal for us.

"What we see is there is a big increase in red. From last year's colour popularity report to this year's, we've had a 3 per cent increase, and that's a very big increase. Normally, you have very small changes in popularity."

Lampinen has also seen a trend toward vibrant colours; in addition to red's rising popularity, there's been a smaller shift toward purple-blues and yellow-golds.

But not so fast.

"White will be a top runner for the next year or two," says Lampinen. "We do see colours increasing in overall take rates, but to overtake white right now, we just don't see things shifting so dramatically."

Lockhart agrees; as auto makers plan colour strategies about three years ahead of product lineups, there are no instant shifts. Colours are expressive, neutrals are not, and due to people's aesthetic whims, having a vibrant colour supplant a neutral at the top is unlikely. Still, she's hopeful.

"People are ready for colour to come back," Lockhart says. "People have been buying silver or white cars for the last decade, and now they're saying, 'You know what? I'm spending this money on this car, I want something exciting.'"

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