Honda and Toyota´s strategy in order to face the technological change

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Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2013)


Honda, patents, Strategy, TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE; Toyota


Ecological awareness and new environmental laws are driving a radical technological change in the automotive industry. In recent years most of dominant companies have intensified the exploration of technologies related to Alternative Energy Vehicles (AEV). This exploration has involved the use of new methods and materials, which had not been essential in the automotive industry technological trajectory.
Technological change experienced by the automotive industry may be interpreted with a Schumpeterian process of creative destruction. Traditional companies are facing competitors who come from electronics, chemistry, energy and software areas, which are essential in AEV´S environment. It seems that this disadvantage could threaten the existence of traditional businesses, however, the evidence shows that these firms might become central actors . (David et al., 1996; Hill and Rothaermel, 2003; Ahuja and Lampert, 2001).
Most of the inventive activity in the AEV emerging sector has been undertaken by U.S. and Japanese companies. Toyota, General Motors, Honda, Ford and Nissan have managed to form extensive patent portfolios. However, Japanese companies have shown greater ability to convert their technology assets in successful designs. For example, Toyota Prius has become an emblem in the technological transition to cleaner energies.
In this paper we analyzed Honda and Toyota patenting landscape, using the USPTO database. The sample used consists on all patents granted to Toyota and Honda including subsidiaries, for the period 1976-2012. The analysis allowed us to identify two key factors that have enabled Toyota and Honda to adapt efficiently to the new context.
1) The evolution of technology classes shows that both companies have been pioneers in the development of AEVs. This allowed them to develop essential technologies such as Toyota´s Hybrid Synergi Drive or Honda's Integrated Motor Assist. This conclusion was reached by performing a comparative analysis of patents between internal combustion vehicles and AEVs.
2) Toyota and Honda have established cooperative relationships with electronics companies and universities in Japan and the United States. This allowed them to acquire skills to develop advanced batteries, loading and unloading devices, and power management systems. The effectiveness of these relationships were evaluated by reviewing the technological class of patents with partnerships.
In summary, the paper shows that Honda and Toyota have adapted succesfuly to the new technological environment, because of their pioneering activities in order to develop AEVs, as well as their ability to internalize the skills of their temporary partners. This research reinforces those papers wich argue that a Schumpeterian technological change does not necessarily result in a displacement of stablished firms. Likewise, it reinforces that in case of technological turbulence, partnerships are a good adaptation strategy.

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Concéption Tommaso Pardi
Administration Géry Deffontaines

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