Why is the LED retrofit scenario ironic?

Why is the LED retrofit scenario ironic?

Lumileds believes the automotive sector is in the middle of a technology shift when it comes to vehicle lighting. LED retrofits, for example, and the discussion surrounding the legal ramifications of fitting them is part of that motion.

The company reported that LED lights are increasingly the standard choice of manufacturers for new vehicles – for both interior and exterior (including headlamps) lighting – and with them comes greater life and performance. Other than accident damage, given the relatively recent adoption of LED into the mainstream, the aftermarket is still a small one – although LED upgrades are starting to appear.

Halogen bulbs remain the most common type on the market, especially for headlamps, and heading Lumileds’ halogen offer is the current Auto Express Headlamp of the Year and recent Megabulb Best of Test, the multi-award winning Philips RacingVision GT200. The first halogen bulb to be rated at +200% compared to the industry standard, it offers an upsell opportunity, as does its sibling, a “great allround” halogen headlamp bulb, the Philips X-tremeVision Pro150, which combines performance and durability, with up to 150% brighter light and up to 450 hours lifetime.

In addition, Lumileds claimed there are also opportunities with HID Xenon bulbs, but the area of greatest growth – and certainly future potential growth – comes with the introduction of LED light units that are retro-fitted to replace halogen bulbs.

In theory it is a pretty simple ask: technicians take out the old halogen light and replace it with an LED. The technology is there. A quality LED retrofit, that is properly fitted and adjusted will outperform and outlast its halogen counterpart, Lumileds claimed.

There are, however, several caveats that kick in at this point! Lumileds has its say:

Firstly, the quality of units coming onto the market is extremely variable – and there is a genuine fear that these LED lights are just too powerful and will dazzle oncoming motorists. Sadly, the design of many low quality LEDs, which are built down to a target price rather than up to a target quality, means that this can often be the case.

Secondly, in the case of headlamps, in particular, there are issues with both heat dissipation and also the effect that installing an LED Retrofit can have on a vehicle’s electrics. It is not uncommon for various warning lights to come up on the vehicle dashboard after an LED retrofit.

Thirdly, and probably the largest ‘elephant in the room’, is the fact that legislation lags way behind technology, in the case of vehicle lighting. Regulations are all based around bulbs with filaments and, of course, LEDs don’t have them. Currently, in the UK, all retrofit LEDs – though not illegal to buy or sell – are currently only legal for off-road and competition use.

That didn’t halt the sales retrofit LEDs, but, from 2021 , if a vehicle turns up for an MOT with retrofit LEDs, MOT centres have standing instructions to fail it, irrespective of any other issues, and it is an offense to drive on UK roads with them.

In many parts of Continental Europe, things are starting to change and in half a dozen countries in Europe – including notably, Germany and France. Philips now has LED bulbs that have been passed to be road legal. The issue with this process is that each bulb has to be certified as fit for each model, so it is a slow and expensive business for the manufacturers.

So far, the UK, has not yet followed suit and there is currently no date to review matters, but there is potential interest in at least looking at the issue.

Lumileds LED retrofit 2

The range

There is a full selection of Philips HID Xenon upgrade bulbs, and Lumileds also produces Philips LED retrofit LED headlamps, signalling and interior lights for all vehicle applications – all tested, controlled and certified to the highest ECE requirements, fulfilling the necessary performance and safety criteria to make them suitable for replacing halogen bulbs for all motoring circumstances.

Richard Armstrong, Lumileds’ business development manager for automotive in UK and Ireland, said: “The situation with retrofit LEDs is somewhat ironic because any number of tests will prove that a well-designed retrofit LED will set new standards for performance and safety.

“That said, overall, better bulbs light up the road more effectively and this is, of itself, reason enough to justify a lighting upsell, because headlights are, arguably, the best-value safety upgrade it is possible for customers to make.

“Lumileds urges resellers and workshops to educate their customers about the benefits of upgrading headlights. Upselling offers a better profit margin and, providing quality bulbs are used, it not only alleviates any risk of comeback from customers but should actually enhance customer relations.”

For more information about Lumileds, click here.

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