Philips discusses retrofit LED bulbs

Philips discusses retrofit LED bulbs

PMM editor, Kieran Nee, sat down with Philips Lighting’s UK country manager, Richard Armstrong to chat about the legal bind the aftermarket has been left in when it comes to retrofit LED bulbs.

Hi Richard, could you give readers an overview of where retrofit LED bulbs sit in the aftermarket right now?

No problem Kieran. As you’ll know, lighting has changed quite dramatically in a short space of time. What we at Philips have tried to do is to offer a choice to the driving public by enabling them to purchase LED retrofit bulbs. This means a garage could take out a customer’s standard fit halogen bulb and replace it with a plug and play LED option. We believe this is valuable as the new bulbs can offer 350 per cent brighter light.

However, there is an obstacle to that. The problem is that by law LED retrofits can only be fitted to vehicles that are used for off-road or rally use only. The reason the bulbs fall into that category is that they fall foul of the legislation around automotive lighting. This legislation, by the way, dates back to 1966. So, somewhat out of date, we could argue. I think it’s a classic case of technology outstripping legislation. Primarily the reason the bulbs go against the legislation is that in 1966 when halogen was becoming the new technology of its day, the legislation was written to eliminate filament bulbs, but in the process also barred anything other than halogen.

So, it’s a classic case, I think, of the technology needing to be recognised for what it is. It delivers greater safety: If you’re getting 350 per cent more light, you see more. If you see more, the chances of having an accident reduce dramatically.

So it’s your view that retrofit LED bulbs would ultimately make the roads safer?

The roads would be safer and I think in the current climate when there are various issues surrounding driver safety, particularly on motorways, I would have thought it would be good for the authorities to look at something that, without any controversy at all, would certainly improve driver safety.

Philips discusses retrofit LED bulbs

But currently, it is illegal to retrofit them (and will result in a failed MOT)

Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the law. But I think when the law is taking a position on a technology that improves the driver’s ability to drive safely without compromising in any way the safety of the vehicle, I think we must have an opportunity to have a discussion that could only result in a better experience for the car driver.

I think the steps we have to take here involve dialogue. We want to speak to the relevant people who have an interest here. We’d like to take an opportunity, if we were able to, to have discussions with the relevant authorities to explain these bulbs that we’re discussing. The LED retrofits use the same LED technology that’s in all modern cars. By changing the standard lighting over to an improved standard of lighting, you improve safety very dramatically and that surely must be the driving force for all legislation.

Also, I would like to point out that we are lagging behind the times, because in Germany, France, Croatia, Austria and I do believe the Czech Republic, these bulbs have become legal, so we are lagging behind a little bit with other developments across Europe.

So we could simply look at what they’re doing in other countries and the effect it’s had and go from there?

I think it would be sensible to take that step forward and follow other countries that, by the way, know a thing or two about automotive engineering as well!

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