LED Lights Giving Automobiles a Bold New Look

LED lights on an Audi.

Automobiles have long relied on design, performance and price as key differentiating factors between models.  As with innovation in general, much of the technology that first appeared on high-end luxury cars has trickled down to entry level models.  Traction control, stability control and anti-lock brakes (ABS) are a few examples.  While not a performance enhancement, but partly a safety feature because the lights are brighter than Halogen and other bulbs, LED light accents (they lack a generic term, so I’ve created my own) have started to appear on many cars, luxury or not.  Although a seemingly useless feature, LED light accents play a major role defining a brand and its range of models.

From what I can remember, BMW was the first major automaker to introduce LED light accents across their model line.  They appeared in the early 2000’s and even had a name: Angel Eyes.  For car fanatics, “cool” was commonly used to describe these LED circles that surrounded the car’s headlights.  Eventually, Angel Eyes made it on every BMW model, making the vehicles very distinct, especially at night.

Angel Eyes did nothing to improve visibility at night for the driver; it was a branding element.  They have evolved significantly, but are still included on BMW models.  Other automakers saw the appeal a simple light accent added that they began incorporating various forms of LED light accents on their cars.

Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, Ford, Volvo and even the deceased Saab use LED light accents.  Many automakers are still in the process of rolling them out across the line of vehicles, but Audi, for example, has been there since at least 2008.  That link brings you to a Audi corporate website dedicated to their LEDs, called Defeat Darkness.  Clearly they see the value.

So what do these LED light accents do?  My belief is that automakers use them to evoke emotion.  While the emotion is stronger with car enthusiasts, anyone that drives at night will encounter cars with LED light accents.  Over time, I believe that some drivers will easily be able to identify LED lights with certain brands.  This is undoubtedly an objective because it’s a distinctive design element that connects to the brand.  Audi is a prime example of this: their LED lights, which started on their R8 super car and A% coupe, are now incorporated in every model.  Their design is distinct; it would be difficult for individuals to confuse the LED lights on an Audi versus a BMW.

Angel Eyes on a BMW.

Over time, LED lights give an automobile somewhat of a face; they often look like eyes, as with BMW’s, and eyebrows or a facial expression, as with Audi’s.  This allows an individual to better identify with a particular vehicle.  It’s a distinction that many automakers are now copying.  While we don’t see consumers purchasing a vehicle solely because of LED light accents, we do see them as a factor, especially with those that are buying on design and style.

From a car enthusiast, this is just an interesting observation that I encounter on a daily basis.  I do believe automakers that pioneered LED light accents across their models had and have specific intentions as to why they’re front and center on their vehicles.  And I think building their brands was the primary reason for their actions.

~Danny Ori

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