Plastic Omnium buys AMLS to bolster auto-body systems

Plastic Omnium recently bought ams OSRAM Automotive Lighting Systems (AMLS) from ams OSRAM: what does the deal mean for the French automotive module supplier? What message does it send to the automotive lighting industry? Pierrick Boulay, Senior Analyst in Solid State Lighting and Lighting Systems at Yole Développement (Yole), and Joël Thome, CEO Piséo, report. This analysis is part of the latest lighting report, proposed by Yole today: Lighting for Automotive 2022.

In late March, this year, Plastic Omnium, sealed a deal to buy AMS-OSRAM AG’s automotive lighting business, AMLS, for €65 million. With the acquisition, the France-based supplier of body modules and fuel systems hopes to drive its smart bumper and tailgate strategy forward.

As CEO, Laurent Favre, said at the time: “[The acquisition provides] a unique opportunity to take an important step into the growing innovative lighting systems segment.”

“It will allow Plastic Omnium to accelerate its ambitious strategy to meet grown OEM customer demand for smart body parts and opens up the potential to enter new market segments,” he added.

This latest move is not a surprise. In August last year, Plastic Omnium was a key bidder for Germany’s automotive lighting supplier, Hella. Plastic Omnium lost to France-based rival, Faurecia of France, which took a $7.9 billion stake in Hella.

What’s more, the AMLS acquisition follows in the footsteps of many other mergers and acquisitions from automotive lighting industry players, looking to boost their value chains and gain market share. For example, in July 2018, Canadian automotive lighting company, Magna, bought automotive exterior lighting supplier, OLSA of Italy, while Japan auto-firm, Calsonic Kansei, bought Fiat Chrysler’s high-tech lighting arm, Magneti Marelli, later that year. Then in 2019, Japan-based automotive lighting provider, KOITO, bought Israeli start-up, BrightWay Vision, a developer of camera-based Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, in 2019. And of course, this all comes at a time when France’s tier 1 auto-supplier, Valeos has been pushing back boundaries in the implementation of LiDAR in high-end cars.

Critically for Plastic Omnium, AMLS hails from Germany, a nation known to be leading the way in automotive lighting and often the first to implement the latest technologies into high-end vehicles. This is important as automakers worldwide begin to integrate more and more LEDs and sensors into their vehicles.

Industry signs

In 2021, the automotive lighting market reached a mighty $31 billion, with more than 90% of revenues coming from products based on LED light sources. The market evolution from the traditional halogen lamp to bright LED has been swift, with lighting itself also evolving from a passive feature, helping drivers to see in the dark, to an active function for detecting oncoming traffic, and more. The automotive lighting report, Lighting for Automotive from Yole details all market figures for each segment.

Right now, headlamp lighting occupies around two-thirds of the entire automotive lighting market, with rear lighting capturing nearly one third market-share while other exterior lights as well as interior lighting share the remaining market. This spells good news for a manufacturers of front modules, such as Plastic Omnium, that are integrating LED-based headlamps and sensors to front-end modules and bumpers to enhance functionality.

One key trend for front automotive lighting is for headlamps to take on a horizontal form-factor. Back in 2016, US electric car firm, Lucid, first revealed its Air sedan with a, then, unique, horizontal lighting arrangement, and since this time, other manufacturers have followed, albeit slowly.

Given this, the horizontal headlamp market is still emerging, but in time will present auto-makers with a host of opportunities to integrate LEDs and sensors for communications and other functionalities. Clearly, Plastic Omnium’s acquisition of AMLS opens a door for the company to enter this segment, and we can expect to see its first products here within the next few years.

Meanwhile, as car manufacturers continue to differentiate themselves via lighting design and other functionalities, more and more LEDs are being integrated to a vehicle’s logo and grille. For example, Mercedes Benz has been offering illuminated badges as standard for a few years while BMW has also deployed a distinctive grille motif.  Citroen of France has also been quick to integrate LED strips to its grille to serve as daytime running lights.

The advance of vehicle electrification is fuelling this trend further. Electric vehicles do not require grilles for engine-cooling, leaving room for car manufacturers to integrate even more LEDs and sensors here.

For example, the grilles of the future may glow to ‘welcome’ the driver, display messages to other road users or project words and signals onto the road. And with extra sensors, these parts could also integrate LiDAR and other sensors for advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) and  automated / autonomous driving functionalities.

A case in point is the ‘lighting and moving grille’ developed by Hyundai Mobis. Here, the South Korea autonomous driving auto-parts supplier’s entire front car grille is a lighting device that can indicate when the vehicle is charging, provide emergency lights and communicate with other drivers and pedestrians.

This Hyundai Mobis grille provides a glimpse of what could come soon. And with AMLS, Plastic Omnium can now track these kinds of trends while developing its own front panel LED and sensor solutions alongside many of the industry’s Tier 1 parts suppliers.

About the authors

Pierrick Boulay is a Senior Technology & Market Analyst, Lighting and Display in the Photonics and Sensing Division at Yole Développement (Yole).

Pierrick works in the fields of Solid-State Lighting and Lighting Systems, carrying out technical, economic, and marketing analyses. In addition, he leads the automotive activities within the company.

Pierrick has authored several reports and custom analyses on topics such as automotive lighting, LiDAR, sensing for ADAS vehicles, and VCSELs.

Prior to Yole, Pierrick has worked in several companies where he developed his knowledge of lighting and automotive. In the past, he has mostly worked in R&D departments on LED lighting applications.

Pierrick holds a master’s degree in Electronics (ESEO – Angers, France).

Joël Thomé is CEO of PISEO. He drives a team of highly skilled engineers dedicated to the integration of photonic technologies (LEDs, lasers, photodiods, imagers…) for any application. With a Master’s Degree in mechanical engineering,

Joel has been working previously at Philips Lighting for more 20 years where he lately held international management positions in the fields of innovation and general management for LED-based and control systems.

Together with YOLE’s analysts and supported by his team he performs technical and market analyses and consulting activities focusing on Photonics issues.

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