A necessity is morphing into a perk.
Interior automotive lighting, more carmakers are realizing, is an effective, fairly simple way to build brand image and create the perception that a vehicle is fun to drive and own.
Advances in LED technology are fueling a trend toward increasingly unique interior lighting packages.
"When you step into an Aspen at night, you know from the get-go it's different," says Chrysler LLC's Tim Potok, senior manager of the interior core team, referring to the bluish-white LED lighting on the perimeter of the Chrysler Aspen's headliner. "You get a 'wow' feeling. It separates us from the competition."
Although LED technology has been around for a long time, auto designers only recently have begun seeking ways to expand its use in interiors, Potok says.
In a recent Chrysler survey, customers said lighting is important to enhancing the appeal of interior design. Likewise, 90 percent of consumers in a Ford Motor Co. market study said they would be interested in unique lighting to enhance the appearance of a vehicle's interior.
LEDs cost more than traditional incandescent lighting but offer advantages that can offset some of the price difference. For example, LEDs:
- Produce less heat and waste less energy and, therefore, are up to five times more efficient than incandescent lights.
- Have extremely long lifetimes. Most will last longer than the vehicle.
- Provide more focused beams of light than what incandescent bulbs offer.
Says Potok: "You can have lots of them in backseat passenger areas without worrying about the light blinding the driver."