How Innovation Happens
Automakers rank at the top of lists on industry investments in R&D, yet the process to achieve automotive innovation remains veiled. One reason is fierce marketplace competition. Company R&D is highly valuable intellectual property, so engineers may work under top-secret security because the first company to market with a technology can gain market share. Now, for the first time, we are taking you behind the scenes to see how innovation happens in the auto industry.
Today’s high-tech automobile is composed of thousands of parts, all performing specialized functions in carefully specified ways. Before any auto technology goes on sale, it must pass through a series of advanced test facilities operated by thousands of auto engineers and scientists who strive to meet this challenge.
An auto must function in the harshest climate conditions, from freezing cold to 100% humidity to desert temperatures… running on the roughest roads, from urban potholes to unpaved country roads… performing at highway speeds… for as much as a 150,000-mile lifetime… while meeting thousands of regulatory standards.
An automobile purchased today is the product of years of ongoing R&D and investments.
Innovation requires lead-time. Bringing a new model to market can require 5-7 years in laboratories, proving grounds and production facilities, while a brand new technology takes longer.
Innovation requires large investments. Developing a new powertrain typically costs $1 billion over 5-8 years. That’s one reason why auto manufacturers traditionally rank at the top of R&D funding lists for all industries, including computers and pharmaceuticals. Spending on R&D in the auto industry increased by 15 percent in 2011, for a total of $96.5 billion.