Why is your vehicle that color? Was it based on practicality, such as white for a warmer climate? Or are you the type who likes to make a statement with something bright, fun and eye-catching? Was the color choice a way for you to personalize your car, or simply what the dealer had available on the lot?
Believe it or not, the colors that vehicle buyers choose is important information for Ford, which analyzes sales data to identify buying patterns and better understand unique consumer preferences by region. The analysis helps Ford ensure it is delivering the specific vehicles, colors and options where they’re most in demand. Understanding preferences helps Ford stay in step with customers and stock the right vehicles in dealer showrooms.
Julie Francis, who is on the color and material design team for Ford of Europe, explains that “identifying rising trends and selecting signature colors are a big part of what we do, and we know how important it is to get the right color into the market at the right time. Too early and it won’t have registered on the customers’ radar; too late and the popularity of a particular color will have already reached its peak.”
“Car and truck owners throughout the country often try to convey different messages about themselves to the world,” added Susan Swek, Ford Group Chief Designer, Color and Materials Design. “Color choice is a powerful way to do that.”
For example, despite a greater choice of vibrant colors, white, silver and black finishes remain the top three paint picks for Ford customers across Europe. White remains overwhelmingly the number one choice of Ford vehicle color in Turkey, while also having the lowest percentage of black vehicles. Denmark, by contrast, goes with black as its top finish, where buyers are least likely to opt for white. In the U.S., San Francisco has the most white-Ford buyers, while muted colors, including gray and silver, are most popular in large cities on the coasts, with California and the Pacific Northwest showing a particular affinity for gray cars. Gray was also the leader of the pack in Belgium.
Only one European country has a number one color other than black, white or silver: the Czech Republic. Czech buyers chose blue Fords in 2010, which is also the color of choice in Washington, D.C. Czech buyers also have the highest percentage of red among all nations, mirroring the dominant red and blue colors in the Czech flag. Red is also popular in the U.S. within the Midwest, and this shouldn’t be a shocker: The most red-colored Ford cars are sold in Cincinnati, home of the Cincinnati Reds.
Norway and Portugal share the same six favorite colors, and while the Irish may be traditionally associated with green, they prefer driving silver (it’s the third least likely country to buy green). In the U.S., the east is distinctly green, notably Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, New York and, not surprisingly, Boston, home of the Boston Celtics (Boston also favors black). Gold is the top pick in Miami, while France and Italy are fond of cream-colored cars.
In Europe, “red used to be by far and away the most popular color, but then that was supplanted,” said Vince Shaw, Marketing and Product Strategy Manager for Ford of Europe. “It looks like white is in the ascendancy now. Dark grays, blacks and blues are always popular, as they are in men or women’s clothing, but just like any other fashion the different car colors come in and out of fashion.”
Color trends – like fashion – change year to year. For example, a small but growing number of buyers are choosing brown, copper and other earth tones. “It took people a little while to warm up to the brown hues; they had previously been perceived as ‘old fashioned’ – think ’70s, ’80s,” said Julie. “But the brown tones are making a comeback in fashion, interior furniture, and now automotive, and have been revived with exciting interior to exterior combinations.”
How does Ford use this data to make sure it offers the right colors in the right countries? “For major markets – Germany, for example – we know that blacks and darker colors are always popular so we factor that in to our planning,” said Vince. “Clearly we want our vehicles to be attractive to our customers and color is a big part of that. In fact, one of the success stories has been Hot Magenta and Squeeze – bright red and green – offered on the Fiesta. They have both sold extremely well, so it’s clear that our customers are keen to have something more individual. We’ve learned from that and in the future will offer more unique colors not found on the usual palette.”
With 2011 seeing the launch of the all-new Ford Focus, boasting striking colors like Candy Yellow, Candy Red and Mars Red, or the stunning Tangerine Scream previewed on the Focus ST model at the Paris Motor Show, this year may well see some hot new color trends emerge throughout Europe. And Ford is seeing strong U.S. sales of new vehicles offered in bright colors as well.
But then would you be all that surprised to learn sizzling Phoenix orders the most Ford vehicles painted Molten Orange?