Perspectives: Automotive Update

Automotive manufacturers are asking suppliers to help them make vehicles more environmentally friendly.

Automotive manufacturers are asking suppliers to help them make vehicles more environmentally friendly. Some of the changes include a continued growth in the use of strong, lightweight plastics to replace metal and reduce weight; growth in the use of UV cure coatings, since they require less energy; growth in the use of waterborne coatings, since they reduce coating consumption by 20%; continued advancements in fuel cells for powering electric cars; and growth in the study of additives to help cars burn fuel cleaner.

Automotive manufacturers are also requesting a new environmental, health and safety standard, RC 14001. This combines features of the American Chemistry Council's Responsible Care® initiative with the ISO environmental management system. An independent audit is key to inclusion. BASF has volunteered to be a test case for implementing the new standard.

Is another standard a good or a bad thing? Is it simply the cost of doing business? Will it cause anyone to think twice about doing business with automotive companies? Probably not. But what is driving the automotive manufacturers? The government? EPA? The European End-of-Life Vehicle regulation? Probably a combination of all of them. One thing that won't likely change; however, is the color palette available to the consumer.

It seems that blue vehicles are gaining in popularity in the United States, according to a survey from BASF Corporation. I know when I purchased my car I wanted it to be a deep midnight blue, but I ended up with red because of the wait for blue.

Silver, however, is the most popular car color today, with 28% of 2002 model year passenger cars painted this color. Jon Hall, BASF automotive color expert, says that silver will give way to an increasing preference for shades of blue in the next few model years. After silver, white was the most popular color at 17%, followed by black 15%; blue, 10%; gray, 9%; beige, 8%; green, 6%, red, 5%; orange, 2%; and yellow/gold, less than 1%.

The trend toward blue is seen as a desire for stability; whereas, silver was said to be fueled by interest in high technology and machines. Mr. Hall states that the collapse of technology, the shock of terrorist attacks and the recession will cause people's tastes to change. People will want things that are beautiful and stimulating with more color.

There is a greater variety of blues, including metallic and light blues that were popular 20 years ago.

Europe will also see a trend toward blues; however, it is not expected to surpass Europeans preference for silver and gray. Silver is also popular in Japan, but red and black cars are expected to increase in attractiveness. Europe and Japan tend to favor more traditional colors, while Americans prefer more options and bolder colors.

Another North American trend is toward hot rods and new cars that reflect a hot rod heritage. Bold reds, oranges, yellows and other colors will decorate these types of cars, making a statement not only about the car but also about the owner. If only we could see the psychologists' report on that.