"I'm an avid fan," said Levy. "So every car I've had and every car I will have is one of those colors." His 2010 Ford Fusion is gray.
"Our studies show that up to 40 percent of buyers will change their vehicle choice if they can't get the color they want," said Karen Surcina, color manager at DuPont Performance Coatings in Wilmington, Del.
Meanwhile, manufacturers spend a bundle researching buyers' color preferences. Their offerings have come a long way since Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford said, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black."
Now, Ford's color choices, which include Lime Green Squeeze and Passion Orange, sound more like smoothie flavors than descriptions of 5,000-pound machines. Ditto for Honda's blackberry, dark cherry and mocha.
Color my worldGlobally, according to DuPont, silver, black, white and gray are top car color choices, in that order. Blue and red follow.
In North America and Japan, white is No. 1, said DuPont. In Europe, it's black. Silver wins the color race in China, India and Russia.
Local preferences abound. Blue is the top car color in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., said Ford. Boston and Seattle like green.
Red is the embraceable hue in Cincinnati and Minneapolis, while gold shines in Miami and Orlando. Sun-reflecting white reigns in Dallas and Phoenix.
Black cars sell better in cold climates and white in hot climates. The exceptions are models often used for livery, such as Cadillacs, where black rules.
Age mattersThe buyer's gender and age affect color choice too. "Color is a higher priority among women than among men," said Michelle Killen, color and trim designer for General Motors Co. in Detroit. "Everyone thinks younger buyers want brighter colors, but not necessarily."
According to Honda, buyers ages 16 to 29 prefer black. Buyers in their 30s and 60s want silver, while those in their 40s and 50s go blue. Some colors increase in popularity as buyers age, like green, said Honda. Gray cars, on the other hand, decrease in popularity as its buyers' hair grays.
More than age of the buyer, said Killen, the type of vehicle affects color choice.
"People tend to want color on a smaller scale," she said. "Not everyone wants a big, bright yellow pickup."
Edmunds.com factors color and region into its appraisals, which are based on current sales. It appraises the 2010 BMW convertible in Illinois, for example, for more in Sepang Bronze Metallic than in Alpine White. The 2010 Cadillac sedan in Tuscan Bronze ChromaFlair is appraised for more than the same car in White Diamond.
Extra-long lead timeCompared with industries such as fashion and home decor, car manufacturing has a longer color-development cycle, explained Killen.
"We're designing three years in advance," she said. "Designing the color doesn't take that long, but tests such as chipping and fading take time."
Car designers look to products with faster turnovers for color trends and identify those with staying power.