Blue is making a car-color come-back. But yellow is gaining ground with motoring non-conformists.

So says Alan Eggly, a Ford senior color and trim designer.

Before, if you saw a yellow vehicle, it was a school bus, taxi or sports car. Now, yellow -- from bold to subtle hues -- leads Ford Motor Company's vehicle color palette for 2002, says Mr. Eggly.

“In the past, it was rare to see yellow on anything but a Mustang or Ferrari,” he says. “However, now yellow is popular on SUVs, trucks and other youth-oriented cars.”

He says yellow attracts extroverts and individualists.

Others, too. A salesman at Les Stanford Chevrolet dealership in Dearborn, MI, says that, from his experience, the “typical” buyer of a yellow Corvette “is a middle-age guy who’s recently divorced and announcing to the world that he’s available.”

And for the not-so-bold? Blue is back. A spectrum of blues will replace green as a favorite, according to Ford’s color and trim forecasters.

Green gained popularity beginning in the earth-tone early ’90s. But color preferences come and go...and often come back again.

Two exceptions: white and black. They may be the plain vanilla and chocolate of the auto industry. But they’re also old standbys that never really fall out of favor with car buyers, says a spokesman for Dupont Automotive, an auto paint supplier.

Color and trim designers spend 11-18 months researching color trends in fashion, furniture and other industries. They then translate those trends into the hot new vehicle colors.

Ford’s designers don’t make these trend predictions alone. Paint suppliers, such as Dupont, are a great source of knowledge because they not only know the popular trends, but they supply paint to multiple auto manufacturers and keep tabs on which direction everyone is heading.

Fashion trends are the important predictor. Runways not only foretell the latest colors and fabrics, they also determine what color will look hot on a vehicle and what texture fabric will feel great inside.

“Fashion is an important industry to watch because it acts as a catalyst for other industries,” says Mr. Eggly. “Once a trend has been established in fashion, if it is successful for a period of time, it is expanded to durable, longer-lasting items. So, for instance, we're seeing the bold popular colors for clothing in recent years translate to cars and trucks.”

What’s the popular vehicle color trend of the future? “Think Orange ‘Crush’ can,” says Mr. Eggly.

Indeed, in recent years many automakers’ unveiled concept cars have been coated in eye-catching – or, in some cases, blinding -- orange.

One of those was Subaru’s STX concept crossover vehicle, shown last year at the Chicago Auto Show. Subaru designer Brenda Roberts said at the time, “If there is a color that represents the new millennium, it’s orange. It’s really an optimistic color.”

Beware though. Orange cars could turn into pumpkins if the market isn’t ready for them.