Critical driver decisions, which are often made in split seconds, require a clear, unobstructed view. This means it is paramount that both vehicle lighting and wiper blades are in peak operating condition, providing vehicle owners with a clear view at all times in all conditions. Advances in technology in both of these categories are continuing to lead the way to increased sales opportunities for jobbers. “Consumers shopping for new cars are discovering that more and more cars offer new lighting features. Available on new models every year are new features like dynamic beams that sweep from side to side based on steering angle to let drivers literally see around corners,” explains Brian Noble of Sylvania. “LED technology is moving quickly from signal functions to fog, low-beam, and high-beam functions. Stylists have new design freedom with LEDs, and drivers get good street illumination with light that is bright white. The incorporation of sensors into the front, back, and sides of the car to alert the driver to potential dangers is also becoming more common. While this is not strictly part of the headlamp, it does in fact enhance the driver’s perception of his or her surroundings, which is of course the primary function of a headlamp system.” “OE trends are utilizing new innovations in lighting for safety, and have started to put a huge emphasis on style and fashion of their vehicles, adds Justin MacLauchlan of PIAA. “A good example of this is Audi’s big marketing promotion a few years back, in which all its commercials highlighted the LED daytime running lights on the vehicle more than the vehicle itself. Now Audis are easily spotted by their lights.” “The industry is moving to LED, and our research shows that the number of people who will change out their headlights even on a newer vehicle in search of premium bulbs, looking for brighter headlights and better quality, is growing,” says Bess Collins, marketing manager for GE Canada. “With growing adoption of LED technology in signal and forward lighting applications, dependence on halogen and HID will naturally drop. This will be a relatively slow process, however, due to cost, car model cycle, and option strategy factors. While LED offers styling and performance benefits, these solutions in forward lighting are still more costly than traditional solutions. As a consequence, LED will be offered as an extra-cost option on most vehicles. Halogen will remain the technology of choice for the lower-cost option and installed rates will remain high in the coming years. HID will have a faster decline as it is displaced by LED at the top end of the model lines. With the huge installed base of traditional technologies in the North American market, aftermarket demand for these lamp types will continue into the foreseeable future,” adds Noble. “Our emphasis, and the trend among many auto parts distributors, is on delivering innovative, premium replacement lighting technologies that help dramatically improve the consumer’s driving visibility. The average age of drivers continues to rise, and they’re driving more miles at night, and in inclement conditions, than ever before,” explains Michael McKee, director, global visibility, Federal-Mogul. “The ability to upgrade to better-than-OE headlamps at an affordable price is very appealing to consumers. The key, of course, is making them aware that these upgrade opportunities exist.” “It is not only about the light source, but the components, such as electronics and cameras. Jobbers and drivers can expect more sophisticated vehicles, which may require a different set of tools and knowledge to repair plus a longer replacement rate,” points out Alfredo De La Vega of Hella. PIAA has launched its new RF Series LED light bars and will be launching more LED products in the coming months that feature their exclusive Reflector Facing Technology (RFT). “This allows us to utilize far fewer LED chips and get more light output with a true beam pattern than our competition – all while maintaining low-amp draw characteristics of LED lighting,” explains MacLauchlin. “As well as our new Performance LED bulb line, which will be launching later this month, we are carrying a crisp white 6000k and a yellow 2800k in 9006/H11/H16/H8 configurations.” “Counter staff should always have the consumer’s needs in mind,” advises Noble. “Lighting is an active safety item, like brakes or tires. Good lighting helps a driver see a situation and make a decision, hopefully before extreme actions need to be taken. Good tires and brakes are involved but seeing the situation starts it out. Avoiding an accident is better than life-saving devices like seatbelts and airbags. A product like Sylvania SilverStar is designed to be the brightest down-road product in our family. Listening to the consumer’s need to see better down-road is the most important feature of better lighting,” he adds. In its efforts to improve LED lighting, PIAA has designed reflector-facing bulbs and new reflector technology. “The design offers significantly improved lighting and beam control compared to conventional LED and halogen lights with forward-facing bulbs. The result is greater visibility for drivers,” explains MacLauchlin. Philip’s new X-treme Vision halogen headlight bulb delivers 100% more light than standard halogens. It is DOT-compliant and lights up the road further than any other halogen headlight. The X-treme Vision light features new X-plosive concentrate technology that includes a chromium tip, special anti-reflex coating, improved geometrical filament design, new gas composition, and adapted pressure as well as quartz glass with a new optical finish. The Philips Crystal Vision 5000K Xenon HID is now available with a light that is 25% whiter than standard HID. White light means better peripheral vision for increased nighttime driving safety. The bulb is directly interchangeable with a vehicle’s originally equipped HID bulbs. “Since LED lamps are mainly for the OE market, Hella has launched a series of auxiliary lamps in LED with different sizes and shapes under the brand Optilux, to serve the off-road enthusiast,” adds De La Vega. The Sylvania SilverStar zXe is a product that is designed for the consumer who wants the look of HID/Xenon. “For the consumer who is interested in the look of their car, the Sylvania ZEVO is our automotive LED line. LEDs can serve the market for both safety and style. They are cool-looking as a whiter light, and for safety, they can act as a better daytime running light,” adds Noble. Wagner offers a new range of TruView Plus LED replacement sealed beam headlamps for commercial and vintage vehicle applications. These premium lamps utilize a bulb-free LED design that virtually eliminates damage caused by road shock and vibration, while delivering a brighter, whiter, crisper light that dramatically extends the driver’s field of vision. “Brighter/whiter light and long life are still the top two attributes that customers are seeking out when they are in the market for headlights. That’s why at GE we focus on those features with our premium products. Our top-of-the-line GE Nighthawk Xenon bulbs feature up to 120% more light on the road compared to standard halogen headlights, and we also carry a line of long-life bulbs in both capsules and sealed beams. The need to see better on the road, be seen, and feel more secure is always top of mind for customers,” adds Collins. “Performance and appearance also rank high, so colour is important (some customers seek out bulbs with a bluer tinge, like our GE Nighthawk Sport), and customers look to LED and HID and newer products like daytime running lights (which GE is launching this fall) and other ways to spruce up their vehicles. “Jobbers should also know to te ll customers that over time bulbs will dim, so even if only one bulb burns out, both bulbs should be changed at the same time so that there is even and similar light distribution and they minimize the inconvenience of having to return for the second bulb later. All of our premium bulbs are available in twin packs. Also because they dim, counter staff should routinely remind customers to think of changing headlights as part of a regular maintenance review or getting ready for winter – bright, clear bulbs are always an important safety tool in a well maintained vehicle.” GE recently launched its GE Nighthawk Xenon and GE Nighthawk LED Sealed Beam, and will soon be introducing two new extensions to the LED line. GE is also launching a set of DRLs later this year. Wagner has also expanded coverage of three premium capsule technologies: Wagner NightDefense, TruView Plus, and BriteLite headlamps and fog lamps. In addition, Wagner provides standard replacement halogen capsules and sealed beams, as well as original equipment-quality standard and “Long Life” Wagner miniature lamps for virtually every popular late-model domestic or foreign nameplate vehicle as well as commercial vehicle, marine, ATV, snowmobile, motorcycle, and aircraft applications. In general, LED lighting features all the stuff of other high-end solutions like Xenon, such as glare-free high beam where a camera detects oncoming traffic. These glare-free beams automatically put a dark patch in the beam where the camera identifies other vehicles. Awareness is the number-one barrier to increased sales of premium lighting products. Most drivers have been in situations when they wished they had better driving visibility, so presenting them with an opportunity to avoid those dangers and uncomfortable situations is a great way to gain a sale and a longer-term customer. Research has shown that the best way to build awareness is at the point of sale, with a high-impact display that clearly communicates product benefits. This approach can convince many consumers to upgrade their headlamps immediately rather than wait until one of their existing lamps burns out.