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Girl TORQUE: Cars & Colours


Colours go in and out of fashion as often as hemlines rise and fall, whether it’s a dress, or paint for your living room. But what about cars?

Cars are a big purchase, and not one you change with each season. Choose an aubergine-hued auto because it’s the hot colour, and it won’t be by next year.

Watch the passing traffic and you’d think few car companies look past subdued greys, whites and blacks. But our roads are positively rainbow-hued compared to Korea, where you’ll rarely see a green car, let alone red, blue or copper; even beige looks a little risky there.

Europe likes its colours though – Nissan sources ex-UK Qashqai in bright blue and bright red, hues unavailable from Japan, though even national preferences are converging, according to DuPont paints.

As for NZ, most buyers choose a colour that will hold its value and, if possible, won’t show the dirt. Hence the predominance of silver – last year’s top colour – followed by blue, white, red and green. Least popular? Pink, with 6594 blushing cars sold.

We haven’t always preferred silver, though. Holden reports its top pick for 2002 was blue, then red and silver; the latter only took the top spot in 2004, briefly losing it to black before regaining lost ground. From 2002 to 2009 the Aussie brand sold 19,636 silver cars to 14,080 red and 13,571 black.

Overall, black seems to be gaining ground. Nissan NZ noticed it on SUVs and utes first, with black and silver now close to half its sales.

Meanwhile Suzuki sold more red or blue Swifts than silver, and Mazda reports increased sales of red, blue and green indicating greater acceptance of colour. But it’s not alone in flagging the big comeback hue as white. It was the most popular choice 20 years ago and returns on the back of advances in paint technology. Forget flat, refrigerator finish; today’s pearls virtually glow in the sun.

Of course your choice depends a little on the type of car you’re buying. The more you spend, the more conservative your colour.

Mercedes sold 171 silver C-class cars to eight blue and ten red last year; Audi, 97 silver A4 to three blue and nine red. BMW owners like silver or black too, unless they’re purchasing convertibles. But there are exceptions, with signature colours for certain models – VW NZ says buyers favour red for GTI, and blue for R-cars.

Brands also have their preferred hue. Alfa Romeo sells largely in red; Ferrari, overwhelmingly red.

Lamborghini owners prefer yellow – in fact they like eye-catching colours, not surprising given Lambos are ‘look at me cars’ largely bought by ‘look at me’ buyers.

Porsche? Those folk are rather conservative. The most popular colours of the 1980s were red, white and silver; of the ’90s, silver and black; now it’s black, silver and grey.

That said, you can only buy what’s available. When companies order cars they land the most accepted hues, thus ensuring those colours continue to be popular. But if you want something different you can order it – Mitsubishi confirms even mainstream brands can get something unusual provided you place a firm order.

But few do. When it comes to cars, colour choice defers to resale value rather than personal taste – or fashion.

Read past Girl TORQUE columns here.

Jacqui Madelin is our expert car reviewer and on the board of the AA Driver Education Foundation.

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