DETROIT -- Automotive companies that wish to innovate their way into continued viability need to accept product ideas from all areas of their businesses -- and outside.
Invention may belong to r&d, but innovation does not, Andrew Brown Jr., executive director and chief technologist for Delphi, said last month as part of a panel on innovation at the Automotive News World Congress here.
Innovation is a team sport, said Harold Krivan, a PACE award judge who is president of consulting firm Sawgrass Solutions.
Successful companies reach outside their normal disciplines, Krivan said. What they have done is identify a problem, and they will go to whatever extent they need to, to solve it.
Brown called part of the process in-sourcing, which he defined as bringing the good ideas of others into the company via partnerships.
Not all of the smart people in the world work for you. They certainly dont all work for Delphi, he said. The key is, how do you get in touch with those smart people?
Paul Mascarenas, Ford Motors vice president of engineering, used Fords partnership in the US with Microsoft for its Sync connectivity software as an example. Using the faster product cycle of consumer electronics companies will allow Ford to release the third version of Sync this spring, just three years after the technologys inception.
Key areas where the auto industry seeks innovation include safety and environmental concerns, panelists said. Still, auto industry executives and analysts at last weeks Detroit auto show said consumers wont pay for green technologies such as hybrid powertrains so long as gasoline is priced below $3.50 a gallon. (about 0.71 a liter)
Panelists said consumers do want green technology. Companies need to stay ahead of consumers desires, so the technology will be affordable when consumers demand it, Brown said.
People want the technology, but its got to be economical, Brown said. Thats the challenge in the industry now: to get the cost of those components down.
Phil Martens, who was ArvinMeritors senior vice president of light vehicle systems until January 8, predicted that half of the vehicles on the road in 2020 will have some sort of diesel or electric-based power source.
Auto companies should consider looking to high-tech venture capitalists for some of the funding for future innovation, he said.
Auto companies can match their experience with a controlled product launch cycle, he said, with those venture capitalists experience with less-controlled product development.