While the EV scale up is happening now, the automotive industry dominant design in terms of business models, industry architecture and product architecture is preserved.
We hypothesize that the design strategy “product modularity to mobility versatility” may disrupt the industry architecture and, accordingly, develop solid theoretical and empirical supporting foundations.
Innovation management, C-K methodology: (Abernathy and Utterback, 1978; Hatchuel et al., 2001; Hatchuel and Weil, 2008; Midler and Beaume, 2009; Pechmann et al., 2012)
Modularity in design, in production, in use: (Baldwin and Clark, 1997; Lampón et al., 2017; MacDuffie, 2013, 2006; Sako and Murray, 1999)
Value chain, Industry architecture, Ecosystems: (Bowman and Ambrosini, 2000; Fournier et al., 2012; Gereffi et al., 2005; Jacobides et al., 2018, 2016; Jacobides and MacDuffie, 2013; MacDuffie and Fujimoto, 2010; Teece, 1986; Zirpoli and Camuffo, 2009)
Electro mobility ecosystem: (Donada, 2018; Donada and Attias, 2015; Donada and Perez, 2015; Vazquez et al., 2018)
While authors discuss two evolutions of the automotive industry: (1) remain under the existing hierarchical architecture, (2) switch to an open ecosystem, no study addressing the key technological, industrial and business enablers of a transformation of the industry architecture has been carried out.
Since the automotive industry dominant design in terms of business models, industry architecture and product architecture is, to date, preserved, we wonder how an innovative BEV design taking advantage of underutilized intrinsic advantages of electrification technologies combined with new mobility services and business models may disrupt this well-established architecture.
To identify innovative mobility usages driving innovative BEV designs and business models which may disrupt the industry architecture, we proceed to a literature review emphasizing key characteristics of new electromobility business models and pointing out how modularity could support BEV design accordingly.
We explore a new mobility concept, MaaS involving mobility operators, and realize an empirical study addressing disruptive concepts of robotaxi coming from the offer side. Gathering all these data, we introduce an innovative design strategy “from product modularity to mobility versatility” and define self-driving electric vehicles, each of them characterized by its modularity and usage versatility.
The empirical materials are based upon a survey of strong / weak signals coming from the offer side, mainly carmakers and Tier1 suppliers, about versatile self-driving vehicles; in terms of methodology, we mainly use second source data, addressing technological announcements extracted from relevant websites for the automotive industry (carmakers, suppliers, consultant companies, and electromobility dedicated websites).
First of all, we evaluate whether or not the versatility characteristics, resulting from our exploration of a mobility concept, are present in the proposed self-driving vehicles. In a second step, we look after information related to manufacturing processes of these vehicles to understand how disruptive they could be versus the existing dominant design.
Finally, we observe which business models are proposed to take advantage of these concepts of self-driving vehicles and try to identify potential switches from B2C to B2B involving incumbent or newcomer actors.
From a theoretical viewpoint, we introduce, based upon our literature review, new mobility concept exploration and empirical survey of the offer side, an innovative product and process design strategy “from product modularity to mobility versatility”. We identify 4 desired properties of mobility versatility: versatility in operation mode, versatility in operating range, versatility in dimensions, and versatility in usage; accordingly we propose 6 types of self-driving electric vehicles, some of them taking advantages of modularity in design, in production and in use: Single purpose robotaxi, Customizable robotaxi, Modular customizable robotaxi, Modular adaptable customizable robotaxi, Transformable robotaxi, Resizable transformable robotaxi which can be adapted to various customers’ needs.
Our empirical study confirms that versatility in operating range, versatility in dimensions, and versatility in usage are (partially) integrated in the concepts proposed by the automotive industry while there are some intentions to switch from a B2C business model to a B2B one.
This study confirms a potential disruption of the industry architecture and raises two main issues: one concerns the concrete technical feasibility of the more versatile concepts whereas the other, far more important, questions the ability of these new business models to drive value and revenue for all the involved actors.
Contribution to Scholarship
Our results propose a path to a disruption of the well-established automotive industry architecture: installation of a new electromobility service pulled by an innovative product and process design strategy: “from product modularity to mobility versatility”.
The introduction of new actors such as mobility operators as well as the switch from B2C to B2B business models are key levers of this disruption. It paves the way to further theoretical study addressing how to drive value and revenue in such an emerging ecosystem as well as what are the appropriate organization rules and governance to make it sustainable. Lastly, it requires some more detailed study about the organization of the production value chain enabling the production and adaptation of self-driving vehicles to the customer needs.
Contribution to Practice
For the automotive industry incumbents, our research provides guidance about new technologies development, evolution of vehicles architecture as well as manufacturing scenarios in order to catch up with the new mobility trends and expectations.
For all (future) electromobility operators, including or not existing automotive industry incumbents, it paves the way to new businesses based upon modular products in use and associated services; especially, for carmakers, it paves the way to an extension of their revenues along the full life cycle of the product by the means of recurrent manufacturing services.
The evolution of the society paves the way to a new landscape of e-mobility needs; our research demonstrates that the emergence of new technologies combined with innovative modular product architecture enable new business models along with disruptive industry architecture, which closes the loop of the innovation challenge!
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