Title: Japanese automakers' approach to electric and hybrid electric vehicles: from incremental to radical innovation

Authors: Hans Pohl

Addresses: Department of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology, SE-412 96 Gothenburg, Sweden; Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education, P.O. Box 3523, SE-103 69 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: This paper discusses Toyota's, Honda's and Nissan's efforts in battery, hybrid, and fuel cell electric vehicles (BEVs, HEVs and FCVs). Its aim is to increase understanding of the process constituting a paradigmatic shift in technology. In particular, the paper aims to elucidate how automakers managed their early moves. Based on interviews, patent data and previous literature, key aspects relating to the automakers successful early moves into vehicle electrification (as seen in 2010) are outlined. Toyota's (and Honda's) aim of in-house knowledge development in the new technologies is among the aspects emphasised as distinctive compared to other world automakers. Furthermore, spill-over in terms of branding and sales and a deliberate development of the corporate culture are proposed as potential new first-mover objectives and consequences. Finally, this paper argues that Toyota, Honda and Nissan are capable of not only incremental but also more-than-incremental innovations, as illustrated by their position in the electrification race.

Keywords: automotive technology; electric vehicles; first movers; Toyota; Honda; Nissan; hybrid electric vehicles; HEVs; radical innovation; incremental innovation; automakers; automobile industry; automotive manufacturing; Japan; fuel cells; batteries; in-house knowledge; knowledge development; spillovers; corporate culture; organisational culture.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTM.2012.045546

International Journal of Technology Management, 2012 Vol.57 No.4, pp.266 - 288

Available online: 10 Feb 2012 *

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