Healthy Growth In Automotive Production To Drive Demand
Over the years, vehicular lighting has transformed from being a purely functional auto component to emerge as an important styling parameter. OEMs have been focusing on lights, especially LED (Light Emitting Diodes) lighting to style and accentuate the features of a car. Advancements in design engineering and material technology has enabled aerodynamic styling of vehicle lights, while simultaneously ensuring required levels of energy efficiency and performance. Key factors which influence trends in the vehicular lighting market include scale of automobile production, regulatory changes, performance, style and costs.
Demand in the OEM market is directly proportional to automobile production, while in the aftermarket vehicle population on road and the average age of vehicles are major demand determinants. Growing price based competition in the aftermarket and in the OEM sector brings cost into the spotlight as a major competitive variable for manufacturers of vehicle lighting systems.
Manufacturers are expected to continue facing tremendous pressure in providing right lighting products, featuring latest technologies at economical prices. Demand for superior safety, comfort and performance features drives technology innovation in the marketplace. Technologies which have revolutionized the lighting market up until now include halogen miniature bulbs, HID lights distributed by fiber optics, neon tubes, LEDs, electroluminescent panels, fluorescent tubes, xenon, bi-xenon, among others. Product design considerations in the future will revolve around energy consumption, longer life, less heat generation and compact design.
HID-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps are fast growing in popularity, given their numerous advantages over incandescent lamps. HID headlamps produce light, which is three times brighter than the conventional halogen lamps. Emergence of advanced HID headlamp systems particularly spells doom for halogen lamp, as these systems use brighter and power efficient xenon-based HID units. The Xenon-based HID headlamps are fast replacing halogen lamps not only in luxury car segment but also in the mid-tier car segment. While LED light source are replacing incandescent lamps, especially in the rear signal lighting market, Xenon lamps are presenting stiff competition to LEDs. Although LED offers a wide range of usage benefits, it is still overshadowed by Xenon lamps in terms of cost performance. Decreasing costs, greater energy conservation and lower power consumption are the major factors driving the increased popularity of xenon lamps. Xenon lamps also score over LEDs with regard to heat dissipation, which has been posing a serious challenge to LEDs.
The automobile industry worldwide witnessed a strong rebound in production and demand following the decline witnessed during the 2007-2009 recession. Resurgence in growth fundamentals, such as, recovery in GDP growth, rise in employment rates, incomes levels, discretionary incomes and consumer confidence, drove up sales in the OEM sector. While the industry in most regions across the world is continuing to recover, the industry in Europe is running into fresh set of challenges.
The European automobile industry currently continues to vacillate between optimism and fear, marring sentiments in an otherwise recovering auto industry in the region. Nervous over the play out of the sovereign debt crisis drama, the domestic industry is facing immediate hurdles, such as, credit restriction, consumer indecisiveness, anticipated slowing of vehicle sales, high labor costs, and possible collapse of consumer confidence in the event of escalation in the severity of the debt crisis. The heat raised by the Euro debt crisis in the auto industry in the EU is reflected by the growing concerns voiced by auto majors like Ford, General Motors, Fiat, over the volatile and fluctuating profits being recorded in the region. Bearish market sentiments indicate that continued multiple defaults by debt ridden economies could trigger a collapse of the Euro as a common currency. The return to local currency, although currently not seen as likely, can spell doom pushing the automobile industry into a complete meltdown like the one witnessed during the 2007-2009 recession.
However, immediate production cutbacks in the region are not seen as likely, given the yet patchy slowdown in auto sales. For instance, pockets of strength continue to exist in the region, such as in Germany and the UK alongside the quarterly weakness witnessed in France, Spain and Portugal. The odds are in favor of the automobile industry given the current guarded optimism over the governments latest attempts to rein in the debt crisis, which in effect discounts the impact of a possible Eurozone crisis, which is still not confirmed as a technical recession. Also, the 2007-2009 recession inspired adoption of leaner inventory holding strategies and restructured cost bases, and shrewd expansion into developing countries to minimize risk exposure in domestic markets, now has the automotive industry in the region better equipped to weather a possible Eurozone slowdown. Nevertheless, auto makers in the region remain concerned and are continuing to lobby for a quicker intervention of the European leaders in resolving the debt crisis. Currently, however production continues to hold up even in the face of weaker than expected growth and optimism remains with no downgrade in the outlook for auto production. Although short-termed, concerns of the automobile industry are currently alleviated with news about the governments in EU legislating additional bailouts which in effect kicks the EU debt can further down the road. Although these short-term solutions do not provide a permanent solution to the crisis and in reality indicates deferring of conclusive, corrective action, market sentiments are nevertheless encouraged.
In general speaking, 12V LED has become more and more affordable, therefore auto LED bulbs have been used widely.