In coming years, expect black to inspire car buyers close to the level silver dominates vehicle color choices today, New York fashion forecaster Margaret Walch says.

“There is a tremendous interest again in black – black understood as many colors,” says Walch, director of The Color Association. “We’re understanding that in fabric, and that’s translated into the hard goods industry.”

Walch’s comments come on the heels of Dupont Automotive’s 2006 Color Popularity Report that proclaims silver, for the seventh consecutive year, as the world’s favorite color for vehicles.

Breaking down this preference further, Dupont says silver is golden in two of the four vehicle segments it tracks – family vehicles and C-sized cars – while finishing second to black among luxury brands and just behind white in light trucks and SUVs.

In the 54-year history of Dupont’s report, silver’s streak marks the longest span any tone has topped the charts. Silver is the color of choice in North America, Europe, South America, China, South Korea and Japan.

“We are seeing a growing convergence in color preference, globally,”

Karen Surcina, Dupont Automotive Systems’ color marketing and technology manager, says.

There also are fewer gray areas associated with silver, Dupont says. Gray has distinguished itself as a color of its own, finding a spot in the top five of every list of favorites.

“The trend for the future includes the infusion of these neutral colors with greens, reds and purples,” the paint maker says.

Walch concurs, saying she is neither surprised nor discouraged that one color has dominated dealer lots for such a long period.

“I think it’s wonderful, because it shows the sophistication (of car buyers),” she tells Ward's. “All those seeming neutrals are tinted. So, to me, it’s a beautiful lineup. What kind of silver is it? Is it peuter silver? Is it kind of a steel silver? There are many silvers.

“In the future, black will be investigated,” adds. “We’re understanding black as many blacks. There’s cherry black, midnight black – a blue-black. That’s my favorite.”

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus luxury brand appears to be on the cutting edge of this spectrum. Its Internet magazine features an original work of detective-thriller fiction titled, “Black Sapphire Pearl.”

A Lexus LS 460 provides a focal point for the Spillane-esque dialogue: “I said, ‘You want to tell me what kind of vehicle we’re looking for?’ She was prepared, taking a photograph out of her purse. ‘It’s a Lexus LS 460. Brand new.’

“I looked at the photo. The car didn’t even have plates yet. That was the good news. It might lower the odds of finding it to one in 100,000, instead of one in 10 million. “It’s black? ‘Dark blue, actually,’ she said. ‘But they call it Black Sapphire Pearl.’”

Rounding out the top 10 colors on Dupont’s list are, in various order depending on market and segment: white, white pearl, black, blue, red, light brown, green and yellow/gold.

Among the brighter colors, blue and red each garnered an 11% share of the North American market, while in China, blue’s 17% choice rate nearly doubles that of red’s 9%.

Notable, too, is a Dupont poll result that shows up to 40% of all prospective car buyers will switch brands to ensure they get a vehicle in the color they want.

Dupont’s statement also delves further into silver’s status by referencing the Socionomics Institute of Gainsville, GA.

The research group suggests silver’s standing reflects the optimism that accompanied the last stock market boom during the early years of this decade, as well as the subsequent housing boom.

“The spread of silver’s popularity worldwide since 1998 has also mirrored the synchronization of global equity markets,” senior analyst Mark Galasiewski says.

Carmen Salcedo is skeptical. As assistant sales representative at Manhattan Mercedes-Benz in New York, she sees plenty of silver cars.

“It hides the dirt,” she says.

emayne@wardsauto.com