Innovation: VW outstrips Daimler

Innovation: VW outstrips Daimler
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With more than 270 innovations, Volkswagen last year clearly outstripped the previous top performer in vehicle innovations, Daimler. This is the finding of a comprehensive study by the consulting firm PwC and the Center of Automotive Management. The study contains further surprises.
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

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Every year, consulting firm PwC and the independent mobility research company Center of Automotive Management (CAM) evaluate the innovative strength of the global automotive groups. Daimler seems to have habitually booked a place at the top. But in the current issue – which compares the innovations of the automotive market in 2019 and 2019 – things are different. With innovations such as V2X for production vehicles in the VW Golf VIII, the lane and orientation lights of the new Audi e-tron Sportback and the 800-volt charging system for the Porsche Taycan, the Volkswagen Group has overtaken its competitors. Two Chinese companies, BYD and Geely (Volvo), as well as Renault and PSA, have also made it into the top ten of the most innovative automobile groups.

“The crisis is reshuffling the cards. Anyone who questions established processes, rethinks principles and expands innovation activities for new technologies can be in the lead when the economic recovery picks up speed again,” explains Felix Kuhnert, Global Automotive Leader at PwC.

The Center of Automotive Management (CAM), headed by Prof. Dr. Stefan Bratzel, has been evaluating the innovations of global automotive manufacturers since 2005. For the year 2019/20, a total of 1,465 product innovations from 42 global automotive groups with around 96 brands were systematically evaluated according to quantitative and qualitative criteria.

In the ranking of the volume brands, VW is in the top position after ranking 3rd in the previous year. Among the global innovations is the improved emergency stop assistant in the Passat, which for the first time in the segment can not only stop the vehicle but also steer it onto the hard shoulder. In the new Golf, the Emergency Brake Assist can also detect the end of a traffic jam for the first time and react accordingly. VW seems to know hardly any competition in the volume segment and can therefore win over other technology categories: “Vehicle concepts and body”, “Interface and networking” and “Autonomous driving and safety”.

In terms of innovation strength, Volkswagen eclipsed competitors Daimler and BMW in 2019. Daimler slipped surprisingly clearly into third place.

Only the Chinese manufacturer BYD manages to interrupt this episode by winning the award in the category “Alternative Drives” and once again illustrates the pressure of new players on established players from Europe. Overall, the trend of increasing innovative strength of Chinese brands such as BYD, Geely, Great Wall, which already account for 23 percent of global innovative strength, is also continuing.

Among the premium brands, Mercedes-Benz (Daimler Group) can maintain its leading position just ahead of BMW. With 36 innovations, Mercedes has one third more world firsts than BMW. Particularly noteworthy are the plug-in version of the model GLE with low fuel consumption and high electric range, in the GLC the active emergency brake assistant, which can also react to the end of a traffic jam, and also the active lane change assistant. Mercedes-Benz has also presented pioneering safety innovations in the “ESF 2019” study, such as 360° pedestrian protection, which can warn the driver while parking and can also actively intervene. Mercedes also took first place in the “Interface and Networking” category among the premium brands, thanks in part to innovations such as the augmented reality mode of the navigation display or the C2C Hazard Warning, which is available for the first time in the model GLC.


The strongest growth is in the area of electric mobility, where a new record of 184 innovations (+82%) was registered. All in all, innovations in the powertrain area thus account for 29% of all innovations and have increased correspondingly sharply compared with the previous year (2018: 20%). Driver assistance and collision protection systems are the second most important field of innovation after the powertrain, accounting for 17 percent of all innovations. Thanks to these innovations, cars are increasingly autonomous, changing lanes independently and braking at stop signs and red lights. In the important category “autonomous driving and safety”, e-mobility pioneer Tesla replaces last year’s winner Mercedes-Benz. Three new assistance systems in two models (Model 3 and Model Y) ensure victory here.

Car manufacturer innovations by country, 2019.

The study evaluated 309 original innovations from automotive suppliers. AutomotiveINNOVATIONS Awards were presented in four categories for the best innovations. Bosch won the award in the drive system category. Bosch scores with the “Fuel cell power module for commercial vehicles“, an alternative drive concept for the truck of the future. In the important future field of “Automated Driving and Driver Assistance Systems”, Schaeffler Paravan is right at the top. With ist Space Drive 3, the specialist for drive-by-wire systems is presenting an important step towards realizing autonomous mobility. ZF and Faurecia have jointly developed the “Safe Human Interaction Cockpit (SHI)” and received the award in the category “Interior and Interface”. Here, too, autonomous driving is an important driver, since it is all about the interaction between man and machine from a safety perspective.

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