The Volkswagen brand fell badly in a new ranking of innovative companies, dropping to 45th overall from 15th in 2010, the last time senior executives were polled.
Hyundai and Toyota came out on top among automakers in the Boston Consulting Group's 2012 ranking of the 50 Most Innovative Companies, ahead of eight other automakers.
Automakers took 10 of the slots in the top 50, which is the highest total for the industry since the consultancy started the ranking in 2005.
Overall, Apple was No. 1 followed by Google at No. 2 and Samsung at No. 3 (see table, bottom).
"Innovation is about bringing something new to the market that is accepted and monetized by the customer," report co-author Hadi Zablit, managing director of BCG Paris, told Automotive News Europe.
She wouldn't comment on individual performances, but said that high-placed car companies were likely to offer breakthrough products such as hybrid/electric powertrains, or low-cost cars. Also important were innovative processes and a unique customer experience, Zablit said.
Hyundai rose 12 places from the last survey in 2010, moving ahead of Toyota. Only Toyota and BMW (fifth among automakers in 2012) have featured in every list since 2005. New entry Kia took fourth place among the automakers behind Ford.
Daimler, JLR missing
Notable by their absences were Jaguar Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, which hasn't made the list since 2009. Honda was also missing for the first time in 2012.
VW dropped from 15th overall in 2010 to 45th this year. The company declined to comment on its performance.
Of the 1,512 senior executives polled around the world, 54 worked for automakers. When asked where innovation and product development ranked in their companies' strategic priorities, 91 percent said it was either No. 1 or in the top three. That was the highest response of any industry group polled for the survey and well above the global average of 76 percent among all industries.
The report singled out Renault, which ranked ninth among automakers and 34th overall. The authors wrote that Renault, which was the top-ranked French company on the list, had invested heavily in full-electric vehicles and had shifted spending from development to research "doubling its research budget in constrained times."
The authors also pointed out that Renault is developing more ideas than ever today but "is launching fewer – albeit better – ideas out into the world."
The ranking is weighted 80 percent toward the choice of executives surveyed, with the remain 20 percent split between the company's shareholder returns, revenue growth and margin growth from the last three years. Almost a third of the executives surveyed, 447, were in Europe.
Top 10 auto innovators (overall global ranking)
1. Hyundai (10)
2. Toyota (11)
3. Ford (12)
4. Kia (13)
5. BMW (14)
6. Nissan (22)
7. Audi (25)
8. GM (29)
9. Renault (34)
10. VW (45)
Source: Boston Consulting Group