The vast majority of vehicles on the road are painted white, grey, silver or black. Why do automakers prefer these subtle colours to orange, red or green, for example? During the 2000s, silver was the colour of choice for most car manufacturers – that soon shifted to white.

More recently, manufacturers such as VW and Toyota have been launching their new models in quirky oranges and cool greens. These launch colours are intended to make a statement and garner attention for the new car. They are carefully chosen because they show off the new model in the best way.

Restrained colours are timeless

One major influence over subtle car colours is time and changing tastes. Like fashion, colour trends come and go but the subtle colours remain timeless. An orange car may look trendy now but in 10 years time, it could look very dated – think about beige cars from the 1990s. Manufacturers and buyers who want their cars to look good in a decade will opt for silver and white.

Bright colours can also look gaudy. During the 1970s, many car manufacturers chose brightly coloured paint schemes. These are synonymous with American muscle cars – lime greens, fiery reds and vibrant oranges. While they may look good on a vintage car, these bright colours do not have the same impact on modern vehicles.

Consumer preference dictates colour choice

Subtle colours are still the flavour of the day and this boils down to consumer preference, not the automakers. Subtle colours tend to have a higher resale value and most car buyers are more likely to buy a white, silver or black car. Some buyers like red, blue or dark green, but vibrant statement colours like purple or orange only feature in about 1% of the cars sold globally.

Consumers drive sales and the truth is that the majority of vehicles purchased from showroom floors have a subtle paint job. In South Africa, 45% of new vehicles purchased are white, 21% are silver and 12% are grey. Red and blue vehicles account for 16% combined, followed by gold and then black. Less common colours include orange, green and beige.

These statistics show a clear preference for subtle colours from the consumer’s point of view. Car manufacturers are simply meeting the demands of their consumers and, in the process, keeping their vehicles timeless with restrained colours.


Formex Industries is a metal forming and assembly company that supplies a variety of complex products to the local automotive industry and export market. The company is based in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropole, South Africa’s foremost region for automotive manufacturing and export.

Formex specialises in producing components for the catalytic converter industry, as well as metal components and assemblies for the various vehicles. Formex aims to become one of the foremost suppliers for the South African automotive industry by 2035, aligning itself with the South African Automotive Masterplan (SAAM) which takes effect in 2020.

Formex is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with over 80% black ownership, of which more than 40% are black women. The company is owned by Deneb Investments Limited – a subsidiary of Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited (HCI) – one of South Africa’s biggest true B-BBEE companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

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