DETROIT — Headlights, grilles and other doodads are stepping up and popping out on cars.
Car bling is proliferating, from daytime running lights that go up the hood of the new Cadillac ATS, to a wide, bold grille on the Ford Fusion, to engraving within the lamps of the new Corvette and Ford Transit.
It is inexpensive but distinctive, providing automotive eye candy that can even boost gas mileage or improve safety. Bling isn't new, but advancements in technology and design are allowing automakers to do more of it and move it from luxury cars into the mainstream.
“You've got form and function with the beauty,” says IHS Automotive analyst Rebecca Lindland.
The adornments are on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which opens to the public Jan. 19:
Mom never advised looking into lights, but peering into the lamps of certain vehicles offers some aesthetic rewards: Tiny engravings are appearing inside, like figures inside a snow globe.
Headlights in the splashy new Corvette feature the brand's crossed-flag logo, and the utilitarian Ford Connect offers Ford's Blue Oval logo contained in a seven-sided shape.
Likewise, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee features a vintage miniature Jeep silhouette and the phrase, “Since 1941,” referring to the year Jeeps began rolling out.
IHS Automotive analyst Rebecca Lindland says it's intriguing that designers are “laying this kind of jewelry in just that small spot” — in the process attracting buyers and providing recognition on the road.
LINE OF SIGHT
Distinctive lights abound, but a prime example graces the front of the new Cadillac ATS, a sport sedan.
The car's daytime running lights go up the top of the fender along the hood line. They help contribute to an overall design that is angular and edgy.
Those lights are helping Cadillac set itself apart from competitors, says Consumer Reports lead car tester Jake Fisher.
Osram Automotive supplies lighting components for the ATS and other Cadillacs. David Hulick, the company's global marketing director of solid state lighting, says the ATS benefits from hidden LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, which offer an “intense, white appearance” that can't be duplicated with traditional bulbs.
Hulick says getting more out of illumination was the impetus behind the first automotive use of LEDs in exterior lighting: a mid-1990s Ford Thunderbird. He says that model used “super-red LEDs with a neon look” — something that also “couldn't be achieved with traditional technology.”
HOT OFF THE GRILLE
Ford is heating up its grilles, particularly its Fusion model. The Fusion jettisoned the old, bulky shutters that go back years and embraced a wide, bold grille with numerous thin blades.
Consumer Reports' Jake Fisher says the grille helps the midsize family sedan “evoke the looks of an Aston-Martin” — adding to the mystique and brand identity without adding to the bottom line.