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Transformative versus conservative automotive innovation styles: Contrasting the electric vehicle manufacturing strategies for the BMW i3 and Fiat 500e

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  • Benjamin K. Sovacool
  • Jan Christoph Rogge, University of Sussex, Wissenschaftszentrum für Sozialforschung gGmbH (Social Science Research Center Berlin)
  • ,
  • Claudio Saleta, University of Sussex
  • ,
  • Edward Masterson-Cox, University of Sussex

The automotive industry is a critically important stakeholder influencing the sustainability of passenger transport. How traditional car manufacturers respond to carbon reduction and vehicle targets, alongside other selection pressures, can greatly influence the availability and affordability of new innovations such as electric vehicles. In this paper, we explore the automotive innovation styles surrounding two electric vehicles: the BMW i3, and the Fiat 500e. To do so, we tie together ideas from technological innovation systems and corporate product innovation style. Our results illustrate a case of a “compliance car,” the Fiat 500e, vs. the first mass production EV by a major German car manufacturer, the BMW i3. BMW adheres to a transformative change-shaping innovation style that attempts to promote in-house learning that can create value. Fiat adheres to a conservative sustaining innovation style that attempts to outsource innovation, promotes limited learning, and focuses on maintaining value. Both styles interestingly result in converging product development patterns over time.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Pages (from-to)45-60
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • BMW i3, Electric mobility, Fiat 500e, Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Technological innovation systems (TIS)

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