Oliver Wyman: Car makers dive into light-innovation

30 January 2014 Consultancy.uk

In a highly competitive market, global car manufacturers are continuously finding ways to stand out. According to Oliver Wyman, a new lighting technology is quickly developing into one of the latest differentiating factors for car manufacturers that are active in the luxury segment. 

“Luxury-car margins are under pressure as car manufacturers expand their line-ups and mass-market vehicles improve in quality”, says August Joas, head of the global automotive practice at Oliver Wyman. “New headlight technologies are innovations that are easily noticed and is therefore one of the quickest growing areas in automotive innovation.”

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For consumers, new lighting technologies provide two main advantages. Safety is one of them; statistics show that 24% of German car crashes occur in the dark, with the result that some drivers are willing to pay extra for better lighting. New lighting systems - known as Matrix LED - provide cars with contextual intelligence, making lighting tailored to specific situations. This allows such systems, on the basis of 50 controlled LEDS (light emitting diodes), to produce nearly 1 billion light variations, enabling adjustments of light levels. The lights also interact with the vehicles navigation software, enabling it to pre-determine the route of the car and thus also adjust lights according to its surroundings. Two examples: high beams will be dipped when turning a corner, and activated on un-lit and rural roads. Or if a person stands in front of a car the lights are shielded away from her whilst still keeping the road lit. Or if a person stands in front of the car, the lights will face away from the person, but will still illuminate the road.

According to Joas, Audi is a clear precursor in this area. The luxury German car brand has openly admitted that light belongs to one of the innovation pillars; it hopes to quickly establish a lead on its competitors in the highly competitive car market. If they really want to stand out, then, Audi will have to take a big lead quickly, according to Joas – rival car manufacturers BMW and Mercedes will offer similar options in the coming months, according to the Oliver Wyman partner.

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The second main advantage of innovative lighting for consumers lie in the ‘personalisation’ it can offer. When lighting is coupled to car systems, drivers can tailor their lighting demands as they wish, offering a new customer experience. For example, taxi drivers can use lights to create the right atmosphere in the car and drivers can decide which lights, and to what extent, will switch on or off when boarding. Lighting can also be used in combination with music and or navigation systems; using a different levels of dimming for classical music as opposed to a rock song. “Lighting can be a truly distinctive feature that addresses the need of individuals, so it makes sense that car manufacturers are eagerly exploring the opportunities”, concludes Joas.

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