Top Gear Philippines

If the world’s billionaires eagerly await the Forbes list every year to know whether they’ve fallen or climbed up a rank or two, the car industry’s product planners seriously keep an eye on the annual DuPont Global Automotive Color Popularity Report. The study is conducted by DuPont, one of the leading names in automotive paint products, and seeks to show the car-color preferences and trends in various car markets around the world. The 2009 edition of the report has just been released, and for the first time DuPont has included a worldwide ranking of popular car colors (based on new-car purchases).

Previously, the report would just indicate popular car colors in individual markets like Japan, Europe, the United States, China, India and even Brazil. This year--the report’s 57th--an overall global ranking has been added, and apparently the most popular car color in the world is silver, with 25 percent of all car buyers preferring that paint job. A close second is black, with 23 percent, followed by white (16 percent), gray (13 percent), blue (9 percent), red (8 percent) and brown/beige (4 percent).

It should be noted that car-color preferences vary from market to market. In the US, for instance, the top car color is white at 17.8 percent, immediately followed by black (17 percent) and silver (16.7 percent). In Europe, they adore black (27 percent), silver (19.9 percent) and gray (18.1 percent). Japan is somewhat similar to the US, the top three car colors being white (28 percent), black (23 percent) and silver (also 23 percent).

Now, here’s the telling part: In China, silver is the top color at 36 percent, trailed by black (23 percent) and white (12 percent). These are revealing statistics because the top three colors in China and in the world are the same (silver, black and white). This leads me to conclude that the sheer number of new cars sold in China this year actually determined the results of the global car-color ranking. The US used to play this role of influencing global automotive trends, its car market once 17 million units strong. Not anymore. The Chinese--whether we like it or not--are now a legitimate automotive force to reckon with.

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My curiosity piqued, I tried to probe a little deeper into why people choose the car colors that they do. There must be some logic to why someone would pick red over gray, for instance. Or why Europeans go crazy over black, and the Chinese are so into silver. So I Googled “car color meanings.” To my surprise, a number of websites appeared, all claiming to have the ability to accurately interpret the true meanings of car colors.

I clicked on one. And then another. And still another. After visiting several websites, I was convinced they offered nothing but a lot of psychological nonsense. For example, they say that if the car is black, the occupants exude power and authority, even citing the US Secret Service to prove their point. I don’t know about that, because last I checked most hearses on Araneta Avenue were also black, and I can tell you right now their occupants are neither powerful nor authoritative. Although if you think about it, yes, they do have the power to make people weep and the authority to literally slow down traffic.

The color-psychology websites also say that if the car is red, its owner is a passionate person who usually belongs to the high-income set. Well, I have a friend who recently owned a bright red Subaru Impreza (unfortunately, it drowned in Ondoy’s deluge). I don’t want to reveal his real identity, so let’s just call him Brian. Now, I’m pretty sure Brian’s wife (let’s call her Agnes) will protest if you tell her that she’s married to a passionate and high-income husband.

The websites then insist that a gray car means the owner is stable. But another friend of mine--let’s call him Aris--owns a gray Nissan Terrano, and “stable” is the last thing that comes to mind when I think of him (mentally, emotionally, spiritually and most especially financially).

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They also say a gold car is owned by someone who craves attention. This is likewise wrong because I have a colleague--let’s call him Dong--who drives a gold Nissan Cefiro. He’s the last person on earth you’d accuse of ever hogging the limelight. In fact, you won’t notice him even when he’s already onstage playing percussion with his band. Talk about self-effacing.

White? They say the owner is careful and pure. On the contrary, I’d say owners of white vehicles are purely careless, because when they bought their car, they didn’t take into account that white is the hardest car color to maintain especially in a dusty and muddy country like ours.

Yellow? They claim that the driver is confident and fun-loving. Sorry, but I’m not prepared to attach those adjectives to cab drivers.

Blue? They say the car owner is a very loyal person. But I just passed along Quezon Avenue and saw a few blue cars parked in front of sleazy nightclubs.

Pink? They say the car owner “likes to be treated with a soft touch.” Um, okay, I have no comment on this one.

A green car, still according to those websites, means the owner is conscientious. This is probably their only car-color interpretation that I won’t dispute, because the only person I can think of right now who owns a green car is my former boss, Erle Sebastian, who now also writes a column for our magazine. Erle is so straight--as in morally upright and not as in heterosexual (which he is as well)--that the green car in question, a 1997 first-generation Honda City, is still his personal means of transportation (at least on days when it doesn’t act up). Although, having said that, I have no doubt in my mind that not a few of our senators and congressmen keep a green car somewhere in their many mansions. So there goes the theory that green symbolizes a good conscience.

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Finally, the websites assert that a silver car connotes wealth and luxury. I think this is the height of bullshit because I happen to own a silver car. I assure you that if I had wealth and luxury, I wouldn’t be spending my weekend writing this column.

Vernon B. Sarne
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