British cars: black overtakes white as most popular colour

Britain’s cars have returned to the dark side, with black now the most popular colour for buyers of new vehicles.

More than half a million black cars were registered in 2017, overtaking white as the colour of choice for the first time since 2012.

Black last returned to the top in the midst of the financial crisis, in 2009, after years of noughties prosperity when shiny silver cars proliferated. Red cars have fallen out of favour, however, as they slipped out of the top five. Pink and mauve are also on the wane, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

An underlying trend appears to be the inexorable rise of grey cars – a phenomenon that experts have said could be attributed to Donald Trump, although the US president has yet to tweet to claim credit. The website of the colour psychology consultant Karen Haller says: “When there is a level of insecurity and uncertainty – as we have seen following the US elections and Brexit – we tend to retreat and gravitate towards things that make us safe, which is why grey is so popular.”

Sales of 500,714 grey cars last year were the colour’s highest annual UK figures on record. In the east Midlands, grey is now the most popular colour of all. A primary colour has not made the top three since 2010. Austerity Britain’s appetite for monochrome cars is such that almost 60% are registered in black, grey or white – with silver accounting for another 10%.

Green, orange and yellow have all increased their market share, albeit to a cumulative 2.3%. Bronze has re-entered the top 10 at the expense of dull brown, and gold is the fastest growing in popularity. Demand for gold is up 19.1%, although it accounts for only one in 500 cars sold.

Other reasons for the reascension of black might be more prosaic: an ever higher proportion of new cars bought in the UK have been purchased for company fleets, such as cab firms. Sales to private customers dipped by nearly 7% in 2017 after years of growth. While drivers of Britain’s most popular car, the Ford Fiesta, still mostly opt for blue, executive cars in the top 10 such as the Mercedes C-class are resolutely black.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said: “Picking a colour is one of the many exciting decisions to make when specifying a new car, as well as selecting from the cutting-edge safety and comfort tech available on the latest low emission vehicles. Manufacturers are continually investing to bring more choice to car buyers, including more colours and colour combinations than ever before.”

Follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk, or sign up to the daily Business Today email here.