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Asian companies lead automotive innovation

27 Jan 2015  | Christoph Hammerschmidt

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Thomson Reuters has released a report indicating that the top innovation drivers in the automotive space are companies based in Asia. The market research firm also revealed that the five hottest areas in the automotive industry, measured by the number of patents filed, are fuel economy, telematics, autonomous driving, driver assistance and head-up displays.

In fuel economy, Hyundai filed most patents, followed by GM and Ford, while telematics is driven by GM and Hyundai. In the area of autonomous driving, Toyota holds the patent record, with GM at its heels and Hyundai a distant third. Bosch leads the statistics in the driver assistance segment, followed by Daimler and Continental. The head-up display market is dominated by a single-topic company, Universal Display. Johnson Controls is second and GM third in this area.

In terms of overall innovation, Japanese OEMs and suppliers take most of the leading positions. The study divides the automotive technology into five broad categories that do not necessarily overlap with the "hot" topics. These basic categories are propulsion, navigation, handling, safety and security, and entertainment. Innovation is particularly strong in the propulsion area, in this segment Thomson sees patent applications explode. In the period from 2009 through July 2014, the number of patents related to propulsion rose from less than 2000 to more than 12,000.

Top innovator was Toyota with more than 7,000 patents. In the top ten automotive OEMs and tier ones, Japanese companies are stronger represented than any other country. Besides Toyota, Honda, Denso, Seiko Epson and Mitsubishi are member of this illustrious circle. Also Europe is relatively strong, with Bosch (second place), Daimler (number 4), Continental (9) and Peugeot (10). The only American company in this list is General Motors that ranked fourth.

In the navigation segment, Seiko Epson leads the field, with Toyota on second and Denso on third place. Best European in this area is Bosch on place five. Handling seems to be the domain of Hyundai, which by the way is catching up rapidly in the overall innovation ranking, the study indicated. Second and third in the handling discipline are Honda and Bosch.

Safety and security offers a mixed image. Again, the Asian manufacturers are very strong with Toyota at number one (once again) and Hyundai at third. Autoliv holds a strong second place; Daimler as the best European OEM ranks fourth. And, finally, the entertainment sector is firmly in the hands of Asian companies: Hyundai has filed the most patents, followed by Panasonic and Toyota. The only non-Asian contender is Bosch on the fifth place.

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