DETROIT -- Coming or going, day or night, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade's lights create a striking image.
The taillights emit thin blades of light from more than a dozen vertically stacked LEDs.
Up front, five vertical LEDs in each headlight create intense razorlike white strips of light at the extreme corners of the fenders. LED stands for light-emitting diode.
The lights, engineered and produced by French supplier Valeo, were designed from the start to separate the Escalade's styling from the competition.
The lights have a down side, though: high repair costs.
In 2010, Cadillac designers challenged the industry's top lighting suppliers to create lights for the 2015 Escalade. Cadillac asked for units with a high-tech appearance that made the light appear like fine crystal. Audi pioneered the use of stylish LEDs on luxury cars.
Valeo's design was chosen over those of four competitors.
"Even before you can see the sheet metal of the vehicle, even before you can see the grille, you'll see these lights," said Martin Davis, exterior lighting design manager for General Motors. "That signature vertical shape identifies the vehicle with Cadillac, and due to the size and expressiveness of that shape, you'll be able to tell that is an Escalade."
Cadillac made lighting a priority on the redesigned Escalade, Davis said, to increase its appeal to demanding luxury buyers looking for distinctive vehicles.
Gavin Warner, r&d director of Valeo Lighting Systems North America, said the use of prismatic inner lenses delivered the look that Cadillac was seeking.