Consumers do care if a car is black or white

Updated 2018-01-22 09:51:04

Fancy gadgetry and sleek styling, color matters when Chinese consumers go to buy a car.

Gong Xiaoyu, who works in an educational institute, recently bought a pearl white car. She said she loves the sparkling effect that distinguishes her car from standard white.

Indeed, when we look at a car, the first thing we usually notice is its color, and automakers are well aware of that fact.

Pearl white is becoming more popular in China, even though the exterior paint and coating process cost more than standard white vehicles. The color is often used in mid- to high-end models. The Tesla Model X, for example, has a pearl white option and General Motor's Cadillac has a color option called crystal white.

According to a report released by US-based Axalta Coating Systems, 62 percent of new cars sold in China in 2017 are in white color. The color has been the favorite for more than 10 years. Within the white segment, 15 percent of car buyers voted for pearl white in 2017.

This all means that for every 10 cars sold in China, six are white color.

After white, Chinese car buyers prefer black, brown and silver. Yellow, red, blue, grey and green are down the list of favorites.

But there is white. Whoever thought such a neutral color could have so many variations? And why do Chinese like white so much in the first place?

For one thing, white is a highly reflective color, making cars more visible at night. It also makes a smaller car look larger and tends to keep cars look cleaner for longer periods of time. Using white paint may enable manufacturers to downsize a car's air conditioner system and raise fuel efficiency.

Gong said a friend of hers suggested she buy a white car. Black, she was told, gets dirty more quickly and shows water spots and dust more readily. Her friend has two cars, one is black and one white, so Gong figured she knew what she was talking about.

Consumers may take a short time to choose a car color, but for manufacturers, color decisions require long discussions and testing.

"The development cycle is three years ahead of the target launch in a model year," said Annie You, an Axalta color designer in China. "In 2018, we are working on colors for vehicles that will hit the streets in 2021."

You said automotive coating suppliers have to keep in close touch with car designers, who have to decide if the latest colors are compatible with their visions of what kinds of cars consumers want.

"The development cycle for exterior colors is longer than for interior colors," You said. "Both need to complement one another as well."

For Chinese consumers, brown is a popular color for interior seats. German carmaker Mercedes-Benz has a customized brown color for seats of its E-class models in China.

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