The technology used in vehicle safety has been advancing at a phenomenal rate for some time now, and with an aging driver population, the timing couldn’t be better. First came the introduction of high-output halogen bulbs, then HID headlights, and more recently we have seen rapid growth in the use of LED lighting. Combine these improvements in lighting with the latest advances in materials and designs for wiper blades, and vehicle owners now have a wide range of aftermarket offerings to choose from to improve their driving safety. Industry research indicates that as the average age of motorists continues to rise, these consumers become more concerned with driving visibility issues, and this has led to more frequent replacement of wipers and more interest in brighter aftermarket lighting products. “When it comes to auxiliary lighting, the market is shifting to LED and slowly moving away from halogen. For headlight bulb upgrades, the halogen upgrade bulbs are still growing, mainly because LED and HID bulb conversions are still illegal unless the vehicle came equipped from the factory with these options,” says Justin MacLauchlan, brand manager for PIAA Corp. “Customers are increasingly attracted to technologies that help enhance their driving visibility, especially products that can match or improve the performance of their OE lighting. When replacing exterior bulbs with LED lamps, consumers need to be aware that in 99% of cases, these products are not street legal and might interfere with other components of a vehicle’s electrical system and/or require additional wiring/resistor installation,” advises Jennifer Bontomasi, product manager, lighting, Federal-Mogul Motorparts. “LED lighting is a very popular trend now with consumers especially for miniature bulb applications, because it is brighter, more dynamic, and lasts substantially longer then the incandescent bulbs it replaces. There isn’t any shifting between halogen and HID because it really depends on the particular vehicle’s lighting system. However, upgrade bulbs are available for both halogen and HID headlights, and we are seeing customers moving to that choice because the upgrades perform better and are brighter than the original equipment,” explains Philips Automotive senior marketing manager Ann-Marie Hines. Older cars, which we have a lot of on the road these days as more and more drivers opt to keep their vehicles much longer (see AIA Report on page 10), no longer have adequate lighting systems when you compare them to newer vehicles, so recommending a bulb upgrade or adding on a set of auxiliary lights and installing a good pair of wiper blades can help increase visibility dramatically. With about 85% of vehicle owners only waiting for a bulb to burn out before putting in a new one, there are a lot of old bulbs out there that have gradually grown noticeably dimmer. Often a driver might think his or her eyes are deteriorating, when it’s actually a deteriorating bulb filament. “Jobbers should be aware of the different needs consumers have in terms of safety and style. Some consumers are looking to upgrade their headlights to help see better down the road, while others are looking to enhance the look of their vehicles,” explains Sylvania Automotive Lighting corporate communication specialist Ashley LaPointe. “Asking a simple question such as, ‘Do you want to see better when driving at night?’ can help consumers understand the benefits of upgrading their headlights. If you can see an object on the road, like a jogger, a deer, a ladder, anything on the road, upgraded headlights can help you react sooner.” The consensus in the lighting industry is that halogen will still comprise the vast majority of sockets on vehicles in operation for the next 20 years. Jobbers and installers should focus on three things to increase sales: (1) replace before burnout (as bulbs do dim over time, or to attain improved safety or styling benefits immediately), (2) replace in pairs (for even illumination and convenience), and (3) upgrade to a premium bulb for safety (more light, whiter colour) or style (white color that approximates HID/LED). “Our newest and hottest lighting innovation is Philips Vision LED lighting,” adds Hines. “This is a direct replacement for a broad range of interior and exterior incandescent bulbs. The new line employs leading-edge LED technology to create lighting that is both brilliant and durable, and is designed to last. Our Philips Vision LEDs feature an advanced and robust design that helps to make them highly resistant to extreme heat and vibration. They’re so durable and we are so confident in their performance, that we back them with an unprecedented 12-year limited warranty.” Philips Vision LEDs create a well-focused light beam on the road, which makes them legal for exterior applications. Philips is also first to market with proven, street-legal exterior LEDs as a direct replacement for exterior incandescent bulb applications. Unlike standard incandescent bulbs, Philips Vision LEDs turn on instantly. PIAA has introduced the LP550 & LP560 LED Light Kits as well as the RF6, RF10 & RF18 LED Light Bars. The company has also introduced new vehicle-specific kits for Jeep and Toyota and offers a line of trail light bars. Philip’s upgrade lines include the Philips Vision Headlight Bulb, which delivers 30% more light than a standard halogen; Philips VisionPlus, which is 60% brighter; and Philips X-treme Vision, which can deliver up to 100% more light. For style-minded consumers, Philips CrystalVision Ultra has a distinctive blue effect in the headlight that creates the whiter and brighter look of xenon, which has become a popular trend among custom and performance enthusiasts. Sylvania Automotive Lighting has just completed a full package redesign on its headlights. “Sylvania SilverStar Ultra headlights are our brightest downroad headlight with whiter light for more clarity,” says LaPointe. For consumers looking to add style to their car, Sylvania has expanded the Sylvania SilverStar zXe series with xenon-fuelled halogen fog lights, and a line of zXe HID bulb replacements, slated to hit store shelves later this year. The Wagner brand offers three premium headlamp technologies to OE-replacement and extended-life miniature lamps for virtually any popular late-model domestic or foreign nameplate vehicle, as well as commercial vehicles. Wagner NightDefense, BriteLite, and TruView Plus head-lamps each offer unique benefits designed to match the needs and preferences of today’s drivers. “The most significant recent expansion of our automotive line is the introduction of TruView Plus LED technology for sealed beam and interior miniature bulb applications. This complements our full line of premium lamp technology,” explains Bontomasi. Wiper Technology Advancements Drivers can further enhance the benefits of their new lighting with a new set of wiper blades, which really should be replaced much more frequently, especially now with an aging driver population concerned about visibility. Much like the brake pad, this product has experienced improvements in materials and design that have improved performance and thus safety. As with lighting, there are a lot of significant differences in materials and construction of wiper blades. Jobbers need to be aware of the various performance and quality levels of wiper blades in order to sell the premium lines they carry. There has been a clear shift away from conventional bridge-style designs to flat or beam blades. Safety is a key selling factor; it’s not just a case of replacing what was originally on the vehicle. Jobbers can keep customers coming back with good service, premium product selections, and helpful advice. The split between the conventional and premium blade offerings is variable and depends on store location and the makeup of the local car park. “There’s a sizeable market of consumers who are attracted to wiper upgrade opportunities, particularly all-season beam blades, which offer exceptional performance in virtually all driving conditions. Our premium Anco Contour and mid-range Anco Profile beam blades feature patented Articulated Contact Technology, which permits unrestricted flexing for more uniform pressure distribution and improved conformance to curved windshields,” says Joe Cirino, product manager, wiper products, Federal-Mogul Motorparts. “An additional consideration for consumers should be the rubber formulation used in the wiping element. Our Anco DuraKlear and DuraKlear Plus natural rubber formulations help ensure a consistent, clear, streak-free wipe in a full range of weather conditions. PIAA’s Forza Hybrid silicone wipers feature a side-spring frame design that optimizes contact pressure across the length of the blade, resulting in a clear, streak-free windshield. Its wind-cheating aero cover applies down-force at higher speeds for today’s high-performance drivers while still delivering a sleek, contemporary look. Rust resistance and durability is the Forza’s forte, too, thanks to its zinc-plated frame and powder-coated finish. Both Trico Force and Trico Onyx beam blade wipers perform under the highest wind speeds with a patented swept-wing spoiler. Rico Flex wiper blades allow drivers to step up from a conventional windshield wiper blade to premium beam blade wiper technology at a reasonable price. Michelin and Pylon Manufacturing Corporation recently introduced a new wiper blade designed to perform in winter, spring, summer and fall weather conditions. The Michelin Stealth Ultra wiper blade is made with segmented construction and a smart hybrid hinge design that grips the windshield across the entire blade’s movement. Its durable construction allows for extreme weather wiping performance. The Michelin Stealth Ultra wiper blade features the EZ-LOK Connector System for a quick and convenient blade replacement. Blades are not meant to last forever. Advise your customers to inspect them monthly and replace them every six months. Wiper blades should be considered a safety device. It’s important to have good vision in all weather conditions, and regular blade replacement ensures less damage to the windshield, which could affect night vision if scratched.