The study analyses the latest trends in vehi-cle-related patenting activity by German manufacturers, suppliers, and service providers, focus-ing on the following questions: What share of overall German patenting activity can be at-tributed to vehicle constructing companies? Do manufacturers or suppliers account for the ma-jority of patent applications, and hence innovations? With respect to the International Patent Classification (IPC), what are the major technological fields of research that German vehicle manufacturers are focusing on? With the conventional power train losing its relative signifi-cance, what share of patenting activity does it still account for?
The data set comprises the latest annual tranche of patent applications and our results show that German vehicle manufacturers are already well suited for the “new age”, thus sharply con-trasting with those opinions which claim that German vehicle manufacturing is sleeping through the structural change. Specifically, we find the following evidence:
- German vehicle manufacturing accounts for a 40 percent share of overall German patent applications, making it by far the most innovative sector.
- A mere 30 percent share of vehicle-related patent applications are allotted to the conven-tional power train (combustion engine, power transmission, exhaust system, etc.). This and only this portion of innovations can be expected to be hit in a negative manner by the struc-tural change towards power train electrification. The remaining 70 percent share is already allotted to “future-proof” areas like vehicle electrics and electronics, interior and exterior, chassis, tyres, brakes, locks, etc.
- German vehicle manufacturers are leading the way when it comes to digitisation, accounting for a 43 percent share of total entries in the IPC subclass “Electric Digital Data Processing”, and for more than one in six entries in “Additive Manufacturing”. Typical examples for vehi-cle-related digitisation technology are autonomous driving, additive manufacturing of light constructional components, and driver assistance systems.
- Two thirds of vehicle-related patent applications are allotted to suppliers, focusing heavily on system suppliers like Bosch, Brose, Continental, Schaeffler, and ZF. Even if manufacturers, too, are highly innovative, it is the suppliers that account for the core innovations in German vehicle manufacturing.