Entertainment | Science

Hot People And Cold Cars; Cold People And Hot Cars

NPR | July 26, 2013 11:26 a.m.

Contributed By:

Robert Krulwich

It’s high summer, yes, but blink and soon it will be fall, and trees will turn red, brown, beige, yellow, pale green and gold. But not cars. Cars may be making the Earth warmer, but their colors, I notice, have turned wintry.

Take a look at this chart, put together by DuPont. It’s their 2012 Automotive Global Color Popularity Report for the planet.

As you can see, the browns, beiges, yellows, golds and reds are all on the right, all showing single digits. Seventy-six percent of the world’s car buyers choose whites, off-whites, blacks, silvers and grays — December hues. When I was growing up, I seem to remember more rainbow on the highways, more blues, greens, reds — even pinks. I’m not sure why tastes have changed, if they have, (maybe blacks and whites have always strongly dominated), but if you look at the U.S. and Canada (called North America by DuPont), we’re the same: very December …

White is a persistent leader — number one in very different cultures: Europe, Japan, Mexico, North America, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, the U.S. and Canada. (Car washes world-wide must be saying “Thank You, Paint Gods!”)

Silver leads in South America, India and Brazil.

Black dominates only one major market, but it’s a big one, China. (I wonder why.)

There are a few (very few) big markets where colors appear in the top four. Brown and Beige cars get a third place (12 percent) ranking in India. Indians choose browns and beiges twice as often as the world average. Again, I don’t know why.

Russians like red. (No. 4 rank) No big surprise there. Blue got a fourth ranking in Japan (Island nation?), but oddly, if you take the coldest, most wintry country on DuPont’s charts — that would be Russia — and the warmest, which I think might be Brazil — and put them next to each other …

… it turns out Brazilians ignore yellows and golds, reds and blues and choose wintry colors more often than the world average. Eighty-two percent of the cars in Brazil are black, white, gray and silver.

Meanwhile, wintry Russians are the world’s most enthusiastic colorists. Almost half (42 percent) choose from the color palate, compared to roughly 18 percent in Brazil. What does this mean? Could it be that hot folks want cold cars and cold folks want hot cars?

If anybody has an explanation, send it in to the comments below. Especially if you live or have lived in India, China, Brazil or Russia. There’s obviously no one, clean answer to these questions, but I’d like to hear theories.

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