NEW YORK – Car dealers desperate to shed inventory might want to buy some white paint. That's because 20 percent of North America’s car buyers drove off in white vehicles this year, according to Black and silver were also popular — 17 percent of buyers preferred these shades. Blue ranked fourth (13 percent) and gray rounded out the top five (12 percent).

What’s so great about white? Special pigments called “white effects” can subtly alter a variety of shades, allowing drivers to express their personal styles. Car colors with altered white tones include “Performance White” on the Ford Mustang, Lexus IS 250’s “Starfire Pearl.” and “Calla White” on the Audi Q7. This is the second year white has topped the list, according to Forbes.

“These nuances are more obvious in white,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and color consultant, of white’s popularity. “It catches the light easily. If you have a pigmented finish, it is going to be more obvious on a white car.”

The findings are part of the 2008 DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report, released in December. DuPont provides coatings for automakers’ production lines, and for the collision repair industry.

The report, which measures car colors’ percentages of North American market share, found that while black, white, and silver remain the most well-liked, other trends are emerging.

Buyers looking for ways to differentiate their cars from others on the road are trying out tri-coat systems, which comprise a base coat, a mid layer containing the color and a special “effect” pigment, and a clear coat.

What’s more, “earth-friendly” tones such as blue are gaining popularity, says Karen Surcina, color marketing manager with DuPont Performance Coatings. Last year, 12 percent of buyers preferred blue; this year, the figure is up slightly to 13 percent. Blue is especially popular among buyers looking to live a greener lifestyle, since it is widely perceived to be representative of nature. Interestingly, green was chosen by just 3 percent of North American buyers, according to Forbes.

Don’t expect blue to surpass the top three any time soon. They’re universally popular: In Europe, black (solid and with effect), silver, and gray reign, accounting for 26 percent, 20 percent, and 18 percent of the market, respectively. Russians overwhelmingly choose silver cars (30 percent) while India's market shows a preference for white, white pearl (17 percent and 11 percent, respectively), and silver (27 percent.)

Among the least loved? Yellow/gold and beige/brown — just 2 percent and 5 percent of drivers, respectively, prefer these colors.