The 2015 NAIAS had fewer concept, idea, and dream cars than previous shows. However, those that were present were all at a very high level, no matter what stage of thinking or prototyping they represented. Moreover, the amount of innovation in the design, style, technology and technique of production and pre- production cars on display was so high as to be comparable to that of yesterday’s concept cars.
The industry as a whole is rapidly bolstering and leveraging its knowledge base on how to effectively use lighting to create brand and model signatures, present family ties among models, advertise corporate identity, and showcase overall vehicle technology levels. Different automakers do this in different ways; for some, there’s strong uniformity in the lamps on all their models. For others, there’s familial resemblance but each model’s look is more assertively tailored. Styling trends that can be seen across multiple marques include the use of light guides to create roadway or racetrack appearances within and between lamps; the use of jewellery effects created by optics, and the use of chrome to create “silver platter” looks of luxury. Differentiating the various trim or specification levels of a vehicle by dint of different lights remains a popular tactic, though the democratisation of fancy things like LED headlamps seems to be gaining traction.
LED rear lamps are rapidly gaining fitment rates, but incandescents are still quite plentiful—it is notable that we see a substantial number of models with highly advanced LED front lighting, but basic incandescent rear lights. Various makers showed cars equipped with the latest adaptive driving beam (ADB) LED headlamps; though these are not yet permitted in North America, work is actively ongoing to build the regulatory framework needed for their introduction to the American market.
There’s a definite continuation of another trend we noticed last year: lighting content and technology advancements even in the traditionally conservative pickup truck segment. There are LED DRLs, LED tail lamps, bifunctional projector headlamps. And the first LED headlamps in the segment have appeared on the 2015 Ford F-150.
The retro trend’s focus is forked: on one prong is muscle cars evoking their 1960s and 1970s ancestors, this year especially with lighting design. The other prong, still nascent, is dalliance with neo-retro classic English sports cars. It will be intriguing to see how these trends shift, drift, and develop. And makers are proudly adding more technology callouts and brand logos to their lighting units, clearly demonstrating that vehicle lighting in the North American market has well and truly moved past the era of commodity lighting and into its own as an important pillar of vehicle design and technology.