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Lenore Skenazy
Lenore Skenazy
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Call It 'Silver'; It's Still a Boring Car Color


It's not your imagination or even your mood. It's reality. The majority of cars on the road today are pitifully, painfully gray — unless they're black or white. In short, they represent the whole glorious spectrum of colors you see in silent movies, photocopies, X-rays and pigeons.

My car, sadly, is no exception. That is why I was so thrilled when a tree fell on our trunk this past winter. Now we have a giant dent in the back, which I refuse to let my husband go get fixed, not only because I am cheap but also because if it gets hammered out, I NEVER will be able to find our car in the supermarket parking lot. I will walk right past it to another dull gray — or, excuse me, "silver" — car and load the groceries in the back and open the front door, and it won't be till my key doesn't turn in the ignition that I'll realize that "this is someone ELSE's car the color of a dead dolphin." And I will feel sorry for the owners because their car doesn't even have a canyon-esque ding to give it some pizazz.

In fact, I feel sorry for our whole country, as right now more than 60 percent of the cars being manufactured are on the black-white spectrum. This is almost as sad as back when Henry Ford told America, "You can have any color you want so long as it's black," and it's a far cry from the fabulous turquoise, butter and salmon 1950s.

Or the '60s! Back then, says Dutch Mandel, editor and associate publisher of AutoWeek magazine, "Chrysler had some fun cars painted in things like 'anti-establish mint,'" which was, of course, green. "Then there were the Dodge Challengers of the '70s, with colors like 'sub-lime,' which was green, and 'banana,' which was yellow." He loved those colors and reports that some of them are being reintroduced.

But the fade to gray today is so complete that the top color for cars worldwide is "silver" — at 26 percent of cars sold.

After that come black (24 percent) and white (16 percent), which is tied with gray, according to DuPont, which studies such things. Color? You want color? Red is the next-most popular choice, but it's down to only 6 percent of the cars being made. Then come, in descending order, blue, brown, green, yellow (just 1 percent) and "other" — for example, my mother-in-law's purple Subaru. Don't ask.

The car companies claim they are responding to consumer demand, but a lot of times, it seems to be the other way around; the consumers don't have much of a choice. "I wanted a blue Infiniti," says Alex Bravy, co-founder of web2carz, a website for car shopping. But when he got to the dealer, the color he wanted wasn't on the lot. "I ended up in that gray-black category very fast simply because I didn't want to wait." The blue car with a maroon interior of his dreams would have taken about a month to deliver. The black one with black-and-"silver" seats? He drove it off the lot.

If somehow you end up owning a gray car, perhaps you can take heart in knowing that this became the signature color for the winning cars in the Grand Prix races of the 1930s, according to Mandel. That's because one of the big winners — Germany — scraped all the paint off its racers to make them lighter. The color underneath? Gray.

Of course, it may not make you feel that much better to be following the example of anything Germany did (or bragged about) in the 1930s. Hmm. So maybe it's just time to tell the automakers: Give us back some color, or we'll walk!


Lenore Skenazy is the author of "Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)" and "Who's the Blonde That Married What's-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can't Remember Right Now." To find out more about Lenore Skenazy ( and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



2 Comments | Post Comment
Manufacturers also claim that consumer demand drives the trend between cars with rounded features and cars with square features. In the 80's we saw square little cars (made to match the Toyota and Honda imports), almost literally littles boxes on wheels. In the 90's we saw cars shaped like round lumps (Ford Taurus anyone?). I'm not sure HOW customer demand can influence the shape of a car. You go to a lot, and you're lucky if you can pick the color, but Toyota doesn't make a square Camry and a round Camry, they make a Camry, if you want a Camry, you get it in the shape they're making it in. So yeah, some people prefer gray cars (personally, I like the look of my freshly-washed black car, nothing looks classier), but when your other options are sea-foam green and champagne, sometimes gray is the only color that won't make you nauseous.

I read another study about how people buy gray cars because they're afraid of being committed to a color that goes out of fashion. White cars, silver cars, black cars, these are always in fashion. Banana, sub-lime? Next year the hot colors might be orange and teal, won't you look foolish in a yellow or bright-green car.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Nathan H.
Fri Aug 5, 2011 12:28 PM
Pearl white was the only color available when I bought my Prius. My solution to making my car recognizable was striping (not a good word for some gorgeous purple/lavendar/gray swirls!). I was seventy years old and deemed I could use purple without embarassment. Two years later and I still love it!
Comment: #2
Posted by: Jan Miller
Fri Aug 12, 2011 10:23 AM
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