Carmakers at a crossroads: new product architectures and new productive organizations?

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One of the main hypothesis at the core of the 6th international programme was that innovation would become increasingly important for carmakers: 1) to build new competitive advantages by designing product policies dedicated to new markets; 2) to take advantage of new powertrain and information technologies either as a way to sustain dominant positions for incumbent global players or as a way to leapfrog to the front for challenger firms in emerging markets.
These processes were also expected to accelerate the decentralization of the engineering organization of carmakers and to increase the autonomy of these decentralized R&D centres. If in 2015 it is clear that these processes are taking place and that the organization of innovation activities inside and outside the carmakers is rapidly changing, it is still very difficult to characterize the nature of these changes. Are we looking at progressive changes that do not modify the relative position of the main global players and the hegemonic role of their traditional R&D centres? Or do these changes entail a more radical transformation not only in the geography of innovation activities, but also in their organization, content and purpose?
From this perspective we welcome communications that will allow to better differentiate the approaches of each carmaker to emerging markets:
• Do we see the emergence of multi-domestic companies capable of developing more dedicated products and productive organizations?
• How global companies manage the increasing decentralized activity of their engineering organizations?
• Are the relationships between R&D centres and factories around the world changing in order to cope with the faster introduction of new technologies and product architectures?
• Is the upgrading of carmakers subsidiaries in emerging markets changing the nature of their relationship with the traditional R&D cores? Are they becoming more autonomous? If yes, what does this entail in terms of innovation activities? If no, what are the main reasons that prevent subsidiaries from engaging in more sophisticated R&D activities such as product development?
We also welcome papers that will explore the catching up and leapfrog strategies of Chinese and Indian carmakers in terms of innovation capabilities both in product development and production. Papers focusing on the strategic approaches of carmakers to the development of new powertrain technologies in terms of innovation activities and organization will be also very welcome, as those that will explore the emerging issue of new mobilities and big data (car-sharing, optimised intermodal transport, connected vehicles, smart cities and roads, etc.) from such a perspective.

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Concéption Tommaso Pardi
Administration Géry Deffontaines

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