Despite a good number of colours and shades offered by car companies, the regal white and silver still reign supreme. What's more, their number as a percentage of total car sales is only rising.
As many as 62-70 per cent of car sales come in these two colours. The number was 50 per cent five years ago. This is confirmed by the company that leads the passenger car pack, Maruti Suzuki, and tracks changes in colour preferences across the industry. Says Shashank Srivastava, its chief general manager (marketing), "Yes, white and silver still are the most dominant colours for cars. In fact, as a ratio, the share of white has become more than that of silver in recent years."
There are some other interesting findings. A larger number of diesel cars are in white, compared to petrol cars. "Since these cars are used for travelling long distances, they are replaced frequently and it is easier to find buyers for a colour with universal appeal," says Srivastava.
The fast off-take of white products in the pre-owned car market is a key reason that makes white beautiful. That is what Ford India has found out. "Though factors like fuel efficiency, the kms done, the condition in which a car is sold in the used car market, etc determine the price a used vehicle commands, for vehicle owners it is easier to find takers for standard white products as compared to coloured cars," says N Raja, head of sales, Ford India.
Pre-owned car dealer Mahindra First Choice, for instance, registers around 35 per cent of its business from the sale of white cars. Hiten Ghelani, vice-president (retail operations), Mahindra First Choice, says, "In the absence of their preferred bright colour, most buyers tend to settle for white. It is a universal favourite. White cars command 3-4 per cent higher value in the pre-owned car market as compared to coloured vehicles." Used white cars are on average sold at a price Rs 10,000-15,000 higher than coloured variants. The trend is particularly noticeable in entry-level and mid-size sedans.
Little wonder then that demand for new bright-coloured options is relatively limited. Raja says when the company launched the Figo in 'squeeze green', it attracted consumers initially and constituted 7-8 per cent sales. That soon went up to 10 per cent.
But, after the initial euphoria, demand for the option settled between five and six per cent of the total.
Ford India registers nearly half of its sales from white cars. Another 12-15 per cent of the volumes come in from silver and dark grey products. "Demand for the white colour is predominant across models. It particularly goes up in the sports utility vehicle (SUV) category. For the Endeavour, three-fourths of the sales come from this colour option," says Raja.
For Maruti Suzuki, certain products are preferred in brighter colours. For instance, premium hatchback Swift finds takers in red, whereas brown holds sway in the Estilo. In the Estilo, over a quarter of sales come in the brown colour option. Swift sales in red are around seven per cent.
Research shows consumers in north India are more likely to go for white cars than those in the south. On an average, the preference for white over other colours is higher by 3-4 per cent in the north compared to states in the south. Auto makers say climatic conditions have a hand in determining the preferred colour. "India is by and large a hot country, therefore consumers prefer white over other colours," says Jnaneswar Sen, senior vice-president (sales & marketing), Honda Siel Cars India.
For certain models, such as the Maruti 800 and the Chevrolet Beat, the white colour option is slightly cheaper than the metallic coloured variants. While in the Maruti 800, the white variant is cheaper by around Rs 2,400, in the Chevrolet Beat the difference goes up to Rs 5,000.