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Say GE, Ford Will Develop Arc Lights for Cars

June 23, 1989

DETROIT (AP) _ General Electric Co. and Ford Motor Co. are trying to make night driving as brightly lit as a night baseball game.

The companies said Thursday they’ve joined in a venture to develop arc discharge lamps for cars, like those in street and stadium lights. GE officials said the lamps would blaze with a whiter light, use less electricity and take more abuse than halogen lights on most cars now.

″Assuming that the product that we jointly design is attractive to the market and can be manufactured at a competitive price, then there would be the opportunity for manufacturing and marketing it,″ said Bill Peacock, spokesman for Ford’s diversified products operation.

The lights could appear on cars in the early 1990s, said Tom Willis, general manager of the project for General Electric’s GE Lighting division in Cleveland. The companies didn’t say how much they would spend on the development program.

Stadium lights need warmup time, but GE has developed an instant-on version adaptable to cars, spokesman John Betchkal said.

GE officials estimate the worldwide market for auto lighting systems at $1 billion a year, although the GE-Ford system isn’t likely to be the only contender for the business.

″It’s a very competitive arena, and there are other people undoubtedly working on similar kinds of products,″ Peacock said.

General Motors Corp.’s Fisher Guide Division in Anderson, Ind., has been working with North American Philips Corp. for more than four years on a high- intensity discharge lighting system, Fisher Guide spokesman Robert B. Quinn said.

″I’m sure we are exploring the new technologies,″ Chrysler Corp. spokesman Ben Dunn added.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has been easing restrictions on headlights, recently legalizing 3-by-3-inch and 2-by-3 1/2 -inch versions, said Mike Henderson, spokesman for Corning Inc., which supplies lenses and reflectors for various companies’ experimental lights.

″It’s created a smorgasbord of opportunity for auto design stylists,″ Henderson said.

The arc discharge system burns cooler than halogen or incandescent lamps, allowing use of smaller lenses that also can be made of plastic, Willis said.

Arc lights don’t have filaments like halogen or incandescent lights and thus are less delicate, Betchkal said, adding, ″We expect the system to last the life of the car.″

Replacement in case of an accident is expected to cost more than for some current halogen systems but less than for others, he said.

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