Automotive industry sees innovation in products, not business models

December 10, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Innovation strategies in the automotive industry are aiming to technology and better customer orientation, states management consulting company PwC. Business models as well as process and value chain management however ranks lower to automotive OEMs. A global survey in this industry shows that many automotive managers expect seminal technological innovations within the next three years.

The consulting company interviewed 70 automotive top managers in all relevant geographies. While 40 percent of the interviewees said they expect game-changing innovations in the field of technology, only 24 percent believed that their business model would undergo fundamental changes.

"In the focus of the innovations strategies in this industry are clearly the customer and its expectations of 'the car of the future'", said PwC expert Felix Kuhnert who oversees PwC's European automotive activities. "Though product-related innovation is the precondition to success in the extremely competitive automotive industry, the companies should not neglect allegedly subordinate fields of innovation. New approaches as to the evolution from car manufacturer to a mobility service provider or a more intensive integration of the internet as a sales channel promise a significant competitive potential", Kuhnert said.

Two prominent examples for automotive OEMs who currently are extending their business models by adding mobility services are BMW with DriveNow, a Joint Venture by BMW and car rental company Sixt AG as well as Daimler with car2go. Both OEMs connect service-related innovations (car sharing) with product innovation whereas offering electric vehicles plays a significant major role in their respective business models. According to PwC, car sharing is particularly attractive to an tech-savvy, innovation-oriented urban clientele which widely does not own a car anymore.

At the technology side, currently particularly many innovations with respect to alternative power trains are developed to market maturity. Examples are BMWs battery electric vehicles i3 or Hyundai's ix35, the world's first series vehicle driven by with fuel cells.

According to the poll, 88 % of the automotive managers regard the customer as the driver for innovations. 85 % believe that the innovation is also driven by strategic partners and suppliers (71 %). Technology partners in industries beyond automotive are becoming increasingly important, the managers believe. For example, the autonomous vehicle can only be implemented if the OEMs have partners in the IT and communications