Automakers are putting more emphasis on lighting to give a distinctive look to new model ranges.
"Front and rear lights remain a major signature element," says Konrad Weigl, sales and business development director for Valeo Lighting Systems.
But Weigl expects the prevalence of chrome seen in some recent clear lighting designs to be toned down in future models.
"There is a trend to have a little less metal and chrome," because some headlights have become too dominant in car styling, he says.
The pace of change is accelerating, especially with the development of xenon front lighting systems, adaptive front lighting systems and rear lights that use light-emitting diodes. Volkswagen used Valeo-supplied double xenon headlamps last year to bolster its technology-excellence claim on the new Phaeton luxury sedan. The Porsche Cayenne and Audi A8 introduced active headlamps. The BMW 7 series introduced the first production light-emitting diode brake force displays in rear light clusters, although not on European models pending changes in legislation.
Others are expected to show brake force display and adaptive front lighting at the Frankfurt auto show in September.
Weigl expects regulation and consumer preferences to establish standards in both areas in the next few years.
Xenon lighting systems represent 7 percent to 12 percent of European new-vehicle sales, but forecasts for 2009 range from 12 percent to 50 percent.
The latest development is bixenon lighting - replacing the traditional system of separate low beam and high beam with a single xenon light source, switching between low and high beam via a movable shutter.
One industry executive expects bi-xenon and dynamic active headlamps to develop together.