Their light modules are equipped with a lens that illuminates the ground and also projects the brand's logo, model name or even the image of a galloping horse.
The puddle lights' purpose is to prevent the driver or passenger from stepping into, well, a puddle or something worse. They are located on the side mirrors and aimed at the pavement, illuminating a wide area of ground below the doors at night. The lights have been around for years, either standard or as an option on a wide range of vehicles. What's new is that some automakers have added a special lens that also projects an image or message on the ground.
For example, the puddle lights on the 2015 Lincoln MKC and Lincoln Navigator create a bright, long "welcome mat" on the ground, stretching nearly the length of the doors, said Lincoln spokesman Sam Locricchio. Positioned in the center of the illuminated area is an image of the Lincoln logo.
Asked why the logo is projected, Locricchio points to the brand's desire to surpass a customer's expectations.
"We always use this phrase, 'surprise and delight.' We have been using that phrase for 100 years, but it really does," he said. And, "it is a perfect way of branding the vehicle."
Lincoln is not alone. For example, the 2015 Hyundai Genesis puddle light projects "Genesis" and displays the model's emblem. The 2015 Ford Mustang projects a horse on the ground when the door is opened. The puddle light on 2015 Land Rover Range Rover models casts a silhouette of an SUV.
Lincoln is in the process of rebuilding the brand. The redesigned Lincoln MKX will debut next year followed in 2016 by the redesigned Lincoln MKS. Several additional models will be added later in the decade.
In the meantime, until additional new models arrive, features that draw attention to Lincoln are important.
As for the puddle light projecting Lincoln's logo, Locricchio said "you are getting the immediate impression of not only is that a cool feature, but there is a little bit of 'Lincoln does that? Wow!'"
Edmunds says: Look for other automakers to follow suit, using puddle lights to project the name of a brand or model on to the ground around a vehicle.