Much of the lustre has worn off the Detroit auto show. As more technology-orientated shows like the Los Angeles motor show have siphoned off interest, NAIAS had even fewer concept, idea, and dream cars this year than last year, and last year was slim pickings. However, those that were present were all at a very high level, no matter what stage of thinking or prototyping they represented. It was especially interesting to see several production-ready versions of cars that were shown last year as concepts; we were able to compare the lighting mockups and placeholders with the developed actuality. In some cases the development was upward-forward; in others it was opposite. And in this year’s concept cars, the degree of design, styling, and technology innovation in the lighting mockups was unprecedented. Clearly lighting is well and truly integral and forward in automakers’ minds and vehicle design.
The world’s automakers are really getting the knack of effectively using lighting to create brand and model signatures, present family ties among models, advertise corporate identity, and trumpet their vehicles’ overall level of technology. Different automakers do this in different ways, of course; 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. At least as importantly, the uptake of LED headlamps is roaring along in high gear. More and ever more popular-price cars have LED headlamps as standard or optional equipment. The Toyota Corolla touched off a revolution two years ago when LED low beams became standard equipment on all models; this year, direct competitors Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra both offer high-specification, thoughtfully-designed LED headlamps. The democratisation of formerly exclusive things like LED headlamps seems to be gaining substantial 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. 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. More pickup trucks have LED headlamps, there are LED DRLs, LED tail lamps, and some truck lighting configurations that would have been unimaginably de luxe just a few years ago.