Disrupters in the Auto Industry? Where?

Publication Type:

Seminar Presentation


Resurrection or Reinvention: Industrial resilience in traditional manufacturing regions, Torino, Italy (2016)


autonomous vehicles, Battery Electric Vehicles, business models, disruptive innovation, Mobility 2.0


The auto industry is not facing disruption from new technologies and new business models, despite claims to the contrary. First, car sharing / ride hailing, innovative drivetrains and autonomy are not new. Instead, they are substitutes for long-standing features of the industry. They may never prove disruptive. They will with certainty not prove to be routes for entry by new players, over and above the normal churn of today’s high-technology supply chain. Second, the time horizon for these to affect the revenue stream of today’s players lies well into the future, in the 2030s. However, the costs are being incurred now, which is not good news for today’s industry.

The policy part of the paper paper addresses two questions. One is of business strategy: to what extent can industry incumbents (such as FCA) choose to be second movers? The greater the extent to which the relevant technologies and strategic approaches reside in other parts of the value chain, the less need for car companies to invest up front. Instead, they can be free riders. Otherwise firms find themselves in a prisoners dilemma, needing to invest today in technologies that will not generate profits tomorrow, because all will have access. The second is whether there is room for policy to shift the geography of the industry in favor of one or another political unit. Can Ontario or northern Italy shift jobs – in this case, those in R&D – in their direction? Connected car projects have already help shift the locus of engineering from Silicon Valley towards Ontario and Michigan. It is not clear however whether the industry will develop additional centers for such research.

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