The auto industry has hit a crossroads. A scarcity of microchips for vehicle electronics and navigation systems has pushed car sales to an unusual low. This has boosted prices. It also has shuttered assembly lines, hurt car company earnings and left dealers with little inventory.
American car buyers have turned to used cars, only to find that their prices also have soared. This, and other factors, has extended the average age of a car to over 12 years in 2021, which is a record.
One reason people buy new cars is that their current ones are old. Sometimes they want cars with the latest innovations. Some of these have become critical to safety, like antilock brakes and technology that helps prevent crashes. To satisfy this demand, carmakers have to reinvent their cars regularly, which means that innovation is at a premium.
Thanks to their size and scalability, global automotive manufacturers are by far the leaders in vehicle innovation, and the number of patents they are filing has been growing over the past decade as they focus on developing driverless and electric vehicle technologies.
Led by Toyota, the top 10 most innovative vehicle manufacturers have filed 1.25 million patents since 2011. Big names, including Volkswagen, Honda and Ford, each submit well over 100,000 patent filings annually.
Not all these patents are related to self-driving and electric cars, of course. Automakers are constantly making improvements to the existing technology in their large inventory of models and vehicle types, while also focusing on patents for the cars of tomorrow, which helps explain why they file so many intellectual property claims
To identify the most innovative car company, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed an analysis of Google Patents data by the British car dealership network Bristol Street Motors. The research focused on 17 major car brands, revealing the number of cumulative patents, automotive patents, electric-vehicle-related patents and patents related to autonomous driving technology between 2011 and 2020. Numbers for all patent types were not available for all 17 brands.
Click here to see all the world’s most innovative car companies.
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