LED Lights Are The Popup Headlights Of The 2000s

Illustration for article titled LED Lights Are The Popup Headlights Of The 2000s

I recently realized that I've been writing here for, what, eight months, and I still haven't devoted a column to LED lights. This is an obvious journalistic travesty, since LED lights are a massive phenomenon that's currently sweeping the nation, sort of like 15 years ago when everyone was getting ice dispensers in their refrigerators.


I must admit that the idea for a column about LED lights came from a reader. This is very embarrassing, because really, I should've figured it out on my own. After all, LED lights are everywhere now. And I mean everywhere. You could be a Buddhist monk living a life of solitude way up in the Tibetan mountains, where your only form of sustenance is your own tears, and you would still see LED lights, shining brightly in cars driving through the valleys below, turning off when drivers activate their turn signals.

The way you can really tell when something car-related has gotten popular is when your friends start asking you about it. And I'm not talking about the kind of friend who texts you a picture of a Dodge Omni GLH he saw on his morning commute. I mean the kind of friend who couldn't tell a Plymouth Voyager from a diplodocus, and routinely asks you questions like: "Why is my check engine light on?"


It's like this, now, with LED lights. I discovered this when I got my Ferrari and received a text message from a friend, an especially annoying friend, a friend who I hope doesn't read Jalopnik, that began with: Sick Ferrari, dude! (As a side note, using the word "sick" in this context generally means I will call you a "friend," and I will store your contact information in my phone, and I will occasionally reply to your text messages, but our face-to-face interactions will be limited to chance encounters at the grocery store.)

Anyway: after my friend complimented the sick Ferrari, he asked the big question that I think is on everyone's mind when it comes to Ferrari ownership, which is, of course: Does it have LEDs? Upon being informed that no, it doesn't, he let me know that the new ones do, and next time I should go for one of those.


Thanks, man. See you at the grocery store.

But I understand his curiosity, because LEDs are insanely popular. A year or so ago, I was sitting around with my friends (Omni GLH friends, not diplodocus Voyager friends) trying to name a brand that wasn't using LEDs, and the only one we could think of was Suzuki. And then Suzuki pulled out of the market, which I think sends a pretty clear message to other automakers: install LEDs, or face widespread bankruptcy.


But what these automakers don't know, and what my annoying friend doesn't realize, is that LED lights will soon be a thing of the past.

I base this statement on something called popup headlights, which I'm told were very popular about 25 years ago. I say "I'm told" because I'm too young to really remember popup headlights, except on the Acura NSX, which kept using them for about a decade after they were no longer fashionable. This is because Acura was very busy developing hit products like the Vigor.


Anyway: popup headlights were, at one time, insanely cool. And I don't mean slightly cool, like when your co-worker comes in to the office with a two-dollar bill. I mean tremendously cool, in the sense that they were installed in all of the day's really awesome cars: the NSX. The Ferrari 348. The Toyota MR2. The Corvette. The Lamborghini Diablo. The Saturn SC1.

But then something happened: popup headlights became uncool. I'm not quite sure how it happened, or when, but I do know that some day, at some point in the mid-1990s, the American consumer woke up from a deep sleep and said: I no longer wish to pretend my car doesn't have headlights during the daytime! And that was the end of popup headlights, except on the C5 Corvette, which got the memo way too far along in the development process and had to use them until 2004.


Now, there must have been some point in the 1980s where people just thought popup headlights were just so cool that they'd last forever. They were installed in all the right cars, and they weren't going anywhere. "In a world with incredible technological achievements like popup headlights," people would say, "why do we still need to open the refrigerator door to get ice?"

And yet, popup headlights failed. And so, too, will LED headlights. You may ask: Doug, how do you know this with such certainty? My reply is simple: because of Kia.


You see, I recently discovered that Kia is now using LED lights on pretty much all of its vehicles. Now, before I get into this, I want to say that I happen to like Kia. In fact, I recently recommended the Soul to a friend, who asked "Isn't that the one with rats in the commercials?" before she bought a Civic.

But while I might like Kia, and you might like Kia, and my friend is either legally blind or sort of an idiot, the problem is that once LED lights have trickled down to Kia, they simply can't be cool anymore. I mean, if you're Joe Millionaire, and you've just purchased a new Range Rover, and you're cruising down the street, and you see a Kia coming towards you with the same lights from your six-figure luxury car, you're going to cross "LEDs" off your "must have" list when it comes time for your next vehicle.


And so I think it's only a matter of time before LEDs go the way of popup headlights. I certainly hope they do, because once LED lights are no longer fashionable, my LED-less Ferrari will look a lot cooler. Maybe it will even be sick.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.


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