Colorful cars are disappearing from the streets. According to Kia Motors, the proportion of new vehicles painted in bland or conservative colors like white, black and silver among those sold in Korea shot up from 52 percent in 2002 to 82 percent last year.
In 2002, cars in vivid colors like blue, red, and green made up at least one in 10 new cars sold in Korea. When including rarer colors such as sienna, amber and mauve, the percentage rose even higher.
However, the figures from last year show that almost one in three newly sold cars were silver, 25 percent white, 15 percent black, and 12 percent grey. Eye-catching colors such as blue, red, and green accounted for less than 10 percent.
This penchant for conservative colors is not restricted to Korean motorists, however. According to automobile paint manufacturer Dupont, the percentage of achromatic cars in North America increased from 58 percent 10 years ago to 70 percent in 2011. But this trend seems more pronounced in Korea.
Koo Sang, a professor at Hanbat National University in Daejeon, said, “The conservative character of Koreans in general seems even more visible in these economically recessed times.”
In the 1990s, a decade of fast economic growth and emerging youth culture in Korea, drivers were more interested in flaunting eye-catching models in vibrant colors. But as the economy slowed in the 2000s, people tended to choose models with a strong residual value so they could reap the rewards further down the road on the second-hand market. As such, black or white cars were seen as a more practical choice due to the ease with which they could be re-sold.
The rising sales of medium and large-sized sedans with engine displacements of 2000cc or higher in the last decade is also linked to this trend as the preference for conservative colors is more pronounced among bigger cars. Sales of medium-sized and large sedans have increased from 14 percent of all car sales in 2001 to 24 percent in 2011.