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How Automakers Are Driving Innovation

The automotive industry is driving innovation and global technological advancement and as a result, today’s automobile represents the most sophisticated technology owned by most consumers. From the early stages of planning, automakers design new vehicles with a range of diverse technologies that meet customer needs for comfort, convenience and safety while improving performance and energy efficiency. Virtually every aspect of the modern automobile is now high-tech, using state-of-the-art materials and processes that rely upon highly skilled workers.

Most Innovative Companies

Automakers are Among the World's Most Innovative Companies

According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), innovation has always been important in the automotive sector, but that focus on new technologies and product features is growing. Their report documents how automakers have increasingly vied with technology companies for top ranking in BCG’s annual survey of the most innovative companies.

The story of innovation

Radio Reports from the Road:

Hear Stories of Automaker Innovation.

In a recent report, the U.S. Department of Transportation called innovations by automakers a “revolution in safety.” In fact, this is the most innovative time in automotive history.

Listen to the Reports

Leaders in R&D Spending

Automakers invested more than $125 billion globally on research and development in 2018, ranking the auto industry ahead of other technology-driven industries, including the software/internet industry and the entire global aerospace and defense industry.

Strategy&, The 2018 Global Innovation 1000 Study

Leaders in R&D Spending

Investing more than $125 Billion Globally on Auto R&D.

To keep pace with ever-growing consumer demands for sophisticated new technologies while staying on the cutting-edge of innovation, automakers consistently invest heavily in long-term research and development. Nearly 60,000 people in the U.S. alone are employed in automotive research and development activities.

Strategy&, The 2018 Global Innovation 1000 Study

Leaders in R&D Spending

Automakers typically invest $19 billion per year on R&D in the U.S. alone — an average of $1,700 for each new vehicle produced. And, 90 percent of research in the auto industry is funded by the companies themselves.
National Science Foundation, Business Research and Development and Innovation: 2016, 5/19

patent leaders

Automakers are Leading Patent Recipients.

Annually, 3-5 percent of all patents in the U.S. are awarded to auto companies, with about 5,000 patents granted each year.  To find other high-tech hallmarks of the auto industry, download this report from the Center for Automotive Research.

Center for Automotive Research Special Report: 
Just How High-Tech is the Automotive Industry?

Get the Report

A Skilled Workforce

Building Autos is a Highly Skilled Job

To be competitive in today’s fast-paced, global marketplace, automakers depend upon educated, trained employees who can quickly develop and adopt new technologies in vehicles.

A Skilled Workforce

The automotive industry ranks the highest in engineering employment density (electrical, industrial and mechanical engineers per 1,000 workers).

Source: Center for Automotive Research

A Skilled Workforce

1,900 College Degrees

Within Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio alone, there are more than 350 higher education institutions offering programs related to engineering, designing, producing and maintaining automobiles. In all, these institutions alone offer more than 1,900 distinct degrees pertinent to the auto industry, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

High-tech Materials

Beyond Iron & Steel:

High-Tech Automotive Materials.

Automakers are using nanotechnology and nanomaterials to improve the performance of new cars and meet consumer needs.

High-tech Materials

Nanotechnology is the science of working with atoms and molecules to build devices.

Nanotubes used in fuel systems, other parts since late 1990s

Nanocomposites used in bumpers – making some 60% lighter, but twice as resistant to wear

Nanocellulose an inexpensive alternative to carbon fiber being studied to make cars lighter and more fuel efficient

High-tech Materials

A Sample of High Tech Materials Used in Autos

Graphene a form of carbon dubbed a “wonder material” that is 200 times stronger than steel, but as thin as an atom

Aerogel used for insulation, the material was first developed by NASA for use in space suits

Gorilla Glass chemically-hardened glass widely used in smartphones that is about half the weight of conventional laminated glass

Bringing Innovation to Market

How Auto Innovation Gets to Market

An automobile purchased today is the product of years of R&D and investments.  Typically, it takes five years or more for a technology or a new model vehicle to go from design to testing, from production to sale.  Today’s high-tech automobile is comprised of 30,000 parts all performing specialized functions in carefully specified ways.

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Fuel Economy &

Carbon Reductions

According to consumer research, our customers want it all — better mileage, cleaner and safer technologies and affordable new vehicles. While we continue urging all stakeholders to work together toward a national program for fuel economy standards, automakers have our own roadmap to move forward while continuing to meet the needs and expectations of consumers. 

Our priorities are fourfold

Continue increasing fuel economy — year after year — to provide our customers with more energy-efficient vehicles with greater emissions reductions and the latest safety technologies.

Partner with public/private groups to get more energy-efficient vehicles on our roads via charging/fueling infrastructure, consumer incentives, government fleet sales and car-sharing and ride-sharing programs.

At the same time, continue increasing investments in research & development for more advancements in safety and efficiency.

Do all of this while still keeping new vehicles affordable.