The difficult way to change the trail Incremental innovation and path dependency of Diesel technology

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Pries, Ludger


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2016)


The case of Volkswagen’s manipulation of Diesel injection software in order to reduce emissions is emblematic for the situation of the European automobile industry in general. During a century all European carmakers followed the path of incremental innovation of engines driven by fossil combustible. Despite general awareness of the dead end of this route path dependency, power relations, as well as regulative, normative and cognitive inertia hindered most European carmakers to switch to radical innovation. The paper, first, takes the Volkswagen case to analyse the main factors that could explain the dynamics of the Diesel emission scandal and, second, asks if and what was exceptional or representative for the current dilemmas of the (European) automobile industry.

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