Automotive Innovation Mapping to Navigate Coming Curves

Niraj Sharma |
 10/29/20 |
6 min read

auto innovation mapping

There are many areas for brands to cover in their quest for market intelligence and dominance. And innovation mapping is one of them! Since markets are fluid and new technologies are constantly introduced, what was good yesterday doesn’t necessarily work today.

The electric vehicle (EV) market is one such market experiencing rapid changes due to technological, political and ecological pressure points to name a few. Innovation and sales are growing in the EV space. And here, we’ll look at capturing market intelligence by mapping automotive innovation to help navigate the coming curves with a focus on:

  • Audi’s eTron hugging the ecological curve
  • Competitors trying to eat up market share
  • Tracking innovation with market intelligence

Here are some stats we uncovered in the electric vehicle space that indicate a market on the upswing.

  • In 2019 Norway led total percentage of worldwide electric vehicle sales at 49.1%, followed by Iceland at 19.1%. China came in 6th with 4.4% while the U.S. came in 15th at 2%.
  • 2018 saw an 81% increase over 2017 in total S. electric vehicle sales with 361,307 units. Tesla grabbed 50% of that total followed by Toyota selling 27,595 units.
  • China is getting hungrier for electric vehicles as sales soared an impressive 66% in the first half of 2019; collectively Europe hit 35% growth and the U.S. followed at 22% during the same time frame.

With that, let’s jump in and see what’s going on with Audi in the electric vehicle conversation.

Audi’s eTron Hugging the Ecological Curve

There’s no doubt that sustainability is still firmly top of mind with many consumers. Environmental concerns are increasingly affecting consumers’ decisions regarding their transportation choices; especially as technological advances have increased range, performance and accessibility.

Audi, the German luxury auto manufacturer, has been paying attention to what customers want and is putting ambitious goals in place to reduce its impact on the environment. Back in 2018, they announced that they were investing $15.9B in electric mobility, digitalization and autonomous driving.

They also introduced their luxury crossover e-Tron SUV as a concept in 2015 and delivered the company’s first mass produced fully electric models in early 2019. And so far, they’re making strides in the EV space.


Additionally, Audi’s aim is for fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to constitute a third of their product volume by 2025. In doing so they intend to have 30 models available to bring consumers a broad range of options while pushing the envelope in battery technology and reduced CO2 emissions.

And it’s the advances in battery technologies that are closing the gap in price between traditional and electric vehicles. This is a welcome trend for the gen-X and millennial age groups who are increasingly eating up percentage of new vehicle purchases anyway – as they are also the demographics most concerned with climate change.

So, on the marketing front, Audi has them in their sights. Audi’s e-Tron was featured in a commercial released last year that was related to Marvel Studio’s hit movie Avengers: Endgame wherein Captain Marvel was briefed on the technological advances on Earth since the previous movie Avengers: Infinity War.


As a matter of fact, Audi is very much in touch with its audience and many would-be buyers have come of age watching their favorite on-screen heroes drive the latest model. Audi’s big screen relationship with Marvel goes all the way back to 2008’s Iron Man trilogy.

However, in its series of culturally embedded marketing, Avengers: Endgame was the first to feature Audi’s fully electric offering. How’s that for telling your audience that you’re in touch with the times?

Competitors Coming for Them at High Speed

The electric vehicle market appears to be in a veritable arms race in terms of innovation, lowering cost of ownership and initiatives combating climate change. Positive sentiment is high in the EV space as you can see below – and this consumer interest is driving competition for market share.


A look at the storyscope tool in NetBase Enterprise gives us a glimpse into the brands that are capturing the most attention on the social spectrum.

Tesla is dominating the conversation right now, as they have for some time. Other brands like Uber are showing up in response to the launch of Uber Green which allows users to choose an electric or hybrid vehicle when they hail a ride.


Of course, familiar automakers like GM, Volkswagen (Audi’s parent company), Nissan and BMW, to name a few, are all mentioned and reveal conversations around their latest offerings and developments.

The competition is stiff, and for car lovers there’s nothing sweeter than owning the other guy, whether in-person or online.


Company Dataset Intel

A look in Quid’s company dataset reveals private investment growing exponentially this year, which is sure to fuel innovation in the EV market. So far this year, private investments in EV has totaled $11.7B with a median investiture of $7.1M.


In the bar chart view below, we can see that the companies involved in EV manufacture are taking the top spot. While companies with a focus on fuel cells, ion batteries, power conversion and charging; as well as the intelligence and big data related tech clusters are among the companies receiving the most investments.


And this makes sense that most of the financed companies are related to battery technologies in some capacity; as those are among the driving innovations in efficiency that are going to push down costs for consumers while increasing range and performance.

A look into the patent dataset seems to support where the money is going as 672 of the 1306 patents filed for electric vehicle technology over the last five years are battery related in nature.


Interestingly, looking at these patents by original company assignee reveals Hyundai, Kia and Ford gobbling up the lion’s share of patents in EV technology.


Innovation Mapping with Market Intelligence

For a cursory glimpse into the conversations going on in any market, it’s important to sort by source types to look for differences in areas of focus. For instance, here’s a timeline view of research articles in the EV space over the last year.


And coloring a stacked bar chart representative of top cluster topics by mid and top tier publications in the research subset reveal the disparities in area of focus. Top level research publications are most represented in the EV market forecasts and electric and hybrid EV clusters, while negligibly concerned with EV market size and charging conversations.


Adding in the general EV conversation from all sources to our research articles above paints a different picture; and underlines the importance of exploring all facets of the conversation in your market research.

For example, below you can see that the shape of the timeline stays roughly the same, but the topics of conversation have changed. Narratives around charging stations, Tesla and electric vehicle range now dominate the conversational volume.


And returning to our stacked bar chart by source tiers we can see that the top tier publications from all outlets are most interested in the petrol cars, GM and Honda partnership and Tesla topic clusters. Of little interest to top tier sources here are the EV market size and Wrexham Council conversations.


Of course, the global conversation has its merits and use cases, but in a quest to get into the nuts and bolts of innovation, finding the conversations going on in the world of research are going to get you ahead of the curve faster.

Sorting for these in your search phase and then further filtering for source quality will open up new windows of insight into your market intelligence. After all there’s a big difference between the results you’ll come away with in the global EV conversation below …


… and the targeted EV research conversation in isolation.


As you can see, there’s a lot of moving parts in the electric vehicle market and diving down into various aspects of the narrative reveal different sides to the story. Market intelligence powered by next generation artificial intelligence (AI) allows your brand to target the layers of the conversation for market insights that are meaningful, while filtering out the noise.

Is your brand ready to get on the leading edge of innovation in your category? Be sure to reach out for a demo and we’ll get you on the right track!

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