The Innovation Race

Protolabs Automotive Report

The automotive industry is facing a period of unprecedented change.

Whether it be the digital revolution sweeping through every corner of industry, the environmental challenges which are becoming ever-more urgent or the emergence of new rivals as the global marketplace continues to develop. There has never been a time of change like this.

That’s why Protolabs – as the world’s fastest digital manufacturer of custom prototypes and low-volume production parts – embarked on our new research looking at innovation in the automotive sector across Europe.

Through a survey of 300 senior executives, reinforced by wide-ranging discussions with industry thought leaders, we explored the trends affecting the sector and evaluated the actions it is taking in response.

In conclusion, we find that there are some clear messages that come out of the research:

  • The old certainties are gone – it’s time to embrace a new reality
    Consumers increasingly want electric and driverless cars, and their preference may well be to share rather than buy vehicles in the future. Car-makers should respond with enthusiasm to the opportunities ahead, embrace new technologies and develop new vehicles and business models at pace.

  • Avoid the sunk-cost fallacy

Manufacturers cannot allow the fact that they have invested billions in existing technology to deter them from now investing in unfamiliar avenues. Hesitation opens the door to new entrants and there is no such thing as a disruption-proof company.

  • The industry is in talent-crisis mode

Success relies on creative minds that can anticipate and satisfy changing customer demand. Part of the long-term solution relies on getting an innovation-friendly culture in place. More immediately, brands may look to new partners and suppliers to provide the skills they need.

  • Speed is everything in the innovation race

As fast as the pace of change is today, it will only get faster still. Car-makers urgently need to understand how they can speed up their innovation activity – whether failing fast, shifting direction or seizing the brightest new opportunities.

It is clear to see that there is a real willingness to innovate across the industry. So by outsourcing non-core competences or tapping into external expertise they can gain the competitive advantage that is crucial in the increasingly digital world that manufacturing finds itself in.


Click here to download the report