RESEARCH ANALYSIS: Collaboration is key in automotive lighting

By just-auto.com editorial team | 27 February 2008

The automotive lighting sector is seeing accelerated technological development that is underpinned by an unusually high degree of collaborative activity, according to a just-auto report.

The sector is huge. Every year, the automotive lighting industry supplies billions of dollars' worth of lamps, lights, bulbs, reflectors and related devices to the world's vehicle makers and a bustling aftermarket.

However, the lighting sector is unique in the degree of cooperation among its major and minor participants and its degree of global integration, according to the research.

This is due, in part, to the industry's vibrant and vigorous programme of symposia, congresses and conferences at which the latest research and technology is showcased and discussed in great detail among the industry's community of researchers, marketers, regulators, scientists, and principal consumers.

These research and development expositions form a framework within which working groups, particularly in Europe, can develop and commercialise new technology in a rapid and coordinated fashion.

Such working groups defined the parameters and sped the adoption of the world's first halogen headlamps in the early 1960s, the first H4 dual-beam halogen headlamps in the early 1970s, Xenon HID headlight systems in the early 1990s, and advanced AFS front-lighting systems in the early 2000s.

As a result of this type of research openness, life in the world's automotive lighting industry is rather like life in a small town: almost everyone knows what almost everyone else is doing, most of the time.

Everyone is working on advanced front-lighting systems and light-emitting diode (LED) headlamps and tail-lamps. Everyone offers BiXenon headlamps. Everyone can do a combination rear lamp that looks all red, but lights up in the three required colours.

Another report finding is that the automotive lighting industry has lately been undergoing rapid and significant change, under the combined influences of multiple forces.

Lighting regulations, once many in number and significantly different in technical prescriptions in the world's many markets, are now greatly reduced in number and substantially harmonised in content.

Aspects of lighting performance long left unregulated, such as pedestrian compatibility in crashes, are now being fast-tracked for regulation that will significantly affect the way lamps are designed and built. Markets have consolidated, as have vehicle makers and lighting suppliers, giving rise to regionally- rather than nationally-based players round the world.

Lighting technology has advanced at a staggering pace since the beginning of the 21st century, presenting an array of engineering and design options of unprecedented width.

At the same time, vehicle stylists and buyers have grown considerably more daring and demanding, so the wide range of options, considered a mere luxury until recently, is now a necessity. The emergence and stratospheric growth of both supply and demand for vehicles (and, therefore, for vehicular lighting systems) in developing nations has significantly pushed and pulled at the world's automotive lighting makers.

As a result, international and inter-company cooperation is at an all-time high in the industry, the just-auto report concludes.

'Global market review of automotive lighting - forecasts to 2013'