Conservative paint colors were the most popular globally during the 2012 model year, with white again taking the top spot in PPG Industries' annual color survey.
Natural colors such as brown, orange and gold rose slightly in popularity.
White accounted for 22 percent of light vehicles produced, up one percentage point from last year, followed by silver at 20 percent, flat with last year, automotive paint supplier PPG said.
Black accounted for 19 percent, down a point from 2011; and gray represented 12 percent, also down a point from last year.
Rounding out the list, red accounted for 9 percent, unchanged from 2011; natural colors had a 2-point rise to 8 percent; blue fell one point to 7 percent; green remained at 2 percent and other colors represented 1 percent of light vehicles produced.
PPG said the figures are based on 2012 automotive production data and broken down by paint usage across three regions: North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
Hot in North America
In North America, the most popular colors were white, 21 percent; black, 19 percent; silver and gray, 16 percent each; red, 10 percent; blue, 8 percent; natural, 7 percent; and green, 3 percent.
Jane Harrington, PPG's color styling manager, said it's not surprising to see white, black and silver on top because they're key colors offered in every vehicle segment.
Brighter colors, in contrast, may only be available in certain segments such as compact cars or electric vehicles, she said.
For example, in recent years, Harrington recalled several automakers offering a specific light blue that customers could only get on electric vehicles.
"On a Ford Fiesta, Mini Cooper or Fiat 500, there is a brighter range of colors offered than would be on a Lincoln MKX or a Cadillac," Harrington said. "If I think of the Volkswagen Beetle, I don't think I've ever seen a bad color on a Beetle."
Brown is gaining more use in the luxury market, where black and gray are traditional key colors.
Harrington says brown is equated with high-end products and is synonymous with craftsmanship.
Importance of color
According to a 2011 PPG survey, 77 percent of consumers said exterior color "was a factor in their automotive decisions."
Mike Millar, manager of strategic marketing for PPG, said car color is usually one of the first questions people ask when discussing new-car purchases.
He said consumers consider exterior color nearly as important as advanced technology in a vehicle.
Interior paints that complement exteriors are becoming more popular, Harrington said.
The 2013 Chevrolet Spark, for example, has interior paint on the door and dashboard.
"You're starting to see a lot more attention to detail, which is great," Harrington said. "They're trying to design the exterior of the car and interior of the car to look closer together."
Wheel finishes also are important to vehicle styling, she said.
"That's a really cool look," Harrington said. "It becomes part of the uniqueness of a vehicle. It's something consumers can customize, too."