At first, LED headlamps came only on high-end cars (Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus…) because of their cost. Then they started coming on eco-focused cars (Leaf, i-Miev, Prius, other hybrids) because of the energy savings and billboard advertisement of eco-technology. Now LED headlamps (full or low-beam-only) are starting to come on mainstream, high-volume, mass-market models such as the Ford Mondeo and the Seat Leon in, unveiled last year at VISION congress and Mondial Paris motor show. And just recently Peugeot unveiled the 308 and Toyota unveiled the Corolla with LED headlamps. So the generalists Ford, Seat, Peugeot, and Toyota are searching to gain a competitive advantage via cutting edge advanced technology and styling differentiation brought by LED headlamps.
While volume automakers start introducing LED headlamps, premium brands are quickly extending their use of technology into their lower segments. Audi, led by the lighting manager Dr Huhn, were the pioneer in seeking to differentiate their models through their lighting offer, extending LED headlamps as an option on the A3. We can now predict that LED headlamps will be an option on every future Audi.
After the arrival of these LED headlamps in middle class range cars, we can expect that LED headlamps will favorably compete against both HID and halogen in the next years. The question is at what speed. There are many factors underlying these future growth trends. In a stagnant European market, automakers are increasingly seeking ways of trying to win sales. One way is to offer more enhanced options based on LEDs because LED headlamps could prove to be the winning attractive option in this battle, as evidenced by the approach being adopted by Ford, Seat, Peugeot, and Toyota. But compared with halogen and HID, LED headlamps are still expensive. This price differential is reducing as increased LED take rate leads to greater economies of scale. And it is expected that entry-level LEDs will beat HID performance at a lower cost in the foreseeable mid-short-term future.
Still, for a long time halogen will remain unbeatable on price. But its market share will shrink because designers are in favour of LEDs which allow them to differentiate their styling, converting headlights and taillights into strong fashion statements. Additionally, as long as the basic version of a car model is halogen, the volume and space distribution required for front lighting will have to accommodate for halogen first, restricting other design choices. If the base version has LEDs, the designer recovers full freedom to create entirely new designs.
DVN Editor in Chief