The soft white revolution on the highways
Münster/Tokyo/Southfield. After silver and black, white has the potential to be the third most significant color on the global automotive market, declared BASF Coatings’ color stylists Michaela Finkenzeller, Sandra Mathia (North America), and Eiji Fujimori (Asia-Pacific) at the presentation of their traditional annual color trend forecast. They announced new shades of white that will attract attention on the roads. Teams in the design centers and labs of BASF Coatings are working on solid-color and metallic paints, as well as special colors like white with soft mica effects, white with extreme sparkle, or white in variants with gradated hues such as cream colors and silver-white. White is classy and likely to be a trendsetter, for instance, in additional layers of clearcoat containing a light gold shimmer or as an exclusive matte white. What makes this all possible is new pigments and manufacturing processes that are making heads turn when it comes to surface texture, haptics, and effects. According to the forecast, white will not only be making its mark in the exclusive and premium vehicle category, but will be setting the stage for small and mid-size cars in the long-term as well.
A combination of matte and high-gloss effects in the area of white is particularly sophisticated. What counts are subtle differences and a passion for details, and this applies to color, surfaces, and haptics as well. “The interplay between a white exterior and a coordinated interior is particularly eye-catching,” says Finkenzeller. “White is actually a very distinctive color. In the automotive sector in particular, it stands out from the crowd.”
White: Leader of the pack 2 decades ago in Europe, in Japan it’s still Number 1
Twenty years ago, the color white had a 20 percent share of the market on German and European roads. In Germany, this share has fallen to two to three percent. In Southern Europe, however, the figure is currently much higher. In Italy, for example, one out of three cars leaving the dealerships is white. In general, the farther south you go, the lighter the color of the cars on the road.
In Japan, white is considered to be the color of purity and clarity. Twenty-seven percent of all car buyers there go for white. When it comes to sports cars, it is practically de rigueur.
The roots of the great white comeback
BASF Coatings’ color stylists and researchers have been observing a manifestation of the white trend for about two years. It’s not just hype or a short-term trend, but rather a metatrend that is making its way through all areas of design and everyday culture. Fashion, furniture, and consumer electronics are all pioneers in the white revolution. One of the best-known examples is the iPod. “From the point of view of society, the new trend toward white is rooted in the search for new values,” adds Finkenzeller. Silver, the metatrend of the last decade, represented this kind of value, but generally stood for infatuation with technology, belief in the future, and inviolability. While the high-tech trend was ground-breaking, it was not a panacea. “We’re searching for new approaches, new solutions, and new values,” says Finkenzeller. This search is being expressed by designers’ color collections and the end consumers’ predilections for certain colors. White stands for a focus on the essential, "a new aesthetic purism”, as BASF color stylist Finkenzeller puts it. Yet white is also something special and exclusive. “White that is worth loving and taking care of as opposed to low-maintenance silver is another way to describe it,” adds Finkenzeller. It’s a matter of emotions versus uniformity and pure functionality.
The "white forecast”
In 2006, dark colors or light shades of silver dominated the German roads. Over 45 percent of newly registered cars were silver. One in four cars was black, and one in six was blue. Only 15 percent of newly registered cars were red, green, or some other color. Red had a hard time of it again in 2006. Back in 1980, 26 percent of the newly registered cars were red, while in 2006 the figure had dropped to 4.5 percent.
This trend has been observed all over the world. According to BASF Coatings, approximately 30 percent of all cars in Europe and Asia are silver, followed by black and blue. The UK and Poland have bucked the trend, however. In the UK, the preferred color is blue, while one out of four vehicles in Poland is painted brown.
In North America, one out of five cars is silver. The global trend toward silver is attributed to rental car agencies and purchasers of company car fleets, who prefer neutral colors. BASF's statistics show that these colors are even more prominent in the upper price range. “So-called premium or luxury-class vehicles are traditionally less colorful,” says color stylist Finkenzeller. However, Finkenzeller observes that white is a very interesting color in this segment, especially considering that at fairs increasing numbers of cars in these classes are presented in shades of white, which piques both dealers’ and end consumers’ interest in and desire for this color. According to Finkenzeller, however, white will not be toppling silver’s dominance on the automotive market.
What colors are still in?
There is a trend toward mixed shades that combine colors such as green, blue, and gray. For instance, adding turquoise effects can lend blue a mysterious touch, and subtle pearl gloss gives a pale greenish-gray a fascinating shimmer. Even silver is becoming more colorful. Increasingly, blue, green, or brown is being added to silver. Finkenzeller reports that the range of colors and effects presented by the new shades is often not revealed until the finish is exposed to just the right incident of light. She adds that silver will also be complemented by other metallic colors. Copper, bronze, gold, and platinum will be giving car bodies a new pizzazz. A sense of class will now be defined by a wide range of colors, which will fulfill the customers’ rising demand for individuality.
Trend: Sensuality - a haptic experience
BASF Coatings’ paint technologies offer more than just a colorful feast for the eyes. New surfaces ensure that the other senses are delighted as well. Matte effect and soft-touch evoke a haptic experience and a completely new point of access to the automobile as an icon for technology. At fairs, many of the visitors were observed touching the satin-finished surfaces of the cars.
Of course, for every trend there is a counter-trend. In contrast to matte clearcoat, there is also a trend toward mirror effects and pure reflection. The two extremes, however, are not mutually exclusive, but open up new possibilities for combining materials, colors, and surfaces in the automobile’s interior, as well as on its exterior.
Color counts when buying a car
Color plays a significant role when consumers buy cars. Over 40 percent of them can imagine switching makes if the dealer doesn’t have the color they want in stock. Design is a major factor in purchasing a car. The language of color and form, materials, and unexpected details are considered to be of increasing importance.
The BASF Coatings’ color stylists learn about trends in colors and materials, as well as ideas and inspirations at venues like international fairs featuring textiles, fashion, furniture, or interior design. Since the trends in these areas are significantly shorter-lived and more varied than in the automotive sector, they need to be filtered and translated when it comes to colors for car exteriors. After all, the complicated technical development and comprehensive tests, like weathering tests, mean that it takes two to three years until an idea for a color makes its way from the lab out onto the roads. On top of that, a color has to continue to please its owner even after years of driving. This requires employees at BASF Coatings’ design centers to be light years ahead of the current trends. They also need to observe the sociocultural developments throughout the world in order to make intercultural comparisons, since the customers, and BASF along with them, operate globally. This entails lots of reading, traveling, research, and observing all areas that have an impact on daily life and moods, including art, architecture, politics, fashion, music, and innovations. When it comes down to it, colors are nothing other than codes that provide access to this general state.
BASF : A major international player in coatings
BASF Coatings AG belongs to the global Coatings Division of the BASF Group. In 2005 the Coatings Division achieved world sales of about 2.2 billion euros. The Coatings Division develops, produces and markets a high-quality range of innovative automotive OEM coatings, automotive refinishes and industrial coatings as well as decorative paints, and also the processes needed to apply them. In this business, eco-efficient water-based, powder and high-solids coatings as well as radiation-curable systems play a special part. In Brazil, the company has been successful in the decorative paints market for years and holds the leading position. BASF has a major, global presence in the Coatings sector, with significant market positions in Europe, North America, South America and the Asia/Pacific region, for example with affiliates in Australia, China, India, Japan, and the Philippines. The internet address of BASF Coatings is www.basf-coatings.de
BASF Automotive Solutions. Performance Passion Success
BASF – The Chemical Company – is a leading-edge source of intelligent sustainable solutions to automotive manufacturers and their suppliers worldwide. With a full portfolio of technologies that include coatings, catalysts, engineering thermoplastics, polyurethanes, pigments and colorants, coolants and brake fluids for a broad array of exterior, interior, chassis and under-the-hood applications, BASF – The Chemical Company - develops and delivers the innovations that help the automotive industry improve the quality, appearance, safety, cost competitiveness, performance, comfort, fuel efficiency, sustainability. Website: www.automotive.basf.com