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The Auto Industry: Rust Belt relic or high-tech hotbed?

By James D. Sawyer
Senior Editor

The auto industry is considered by many as being seriously old school. A study released January 8 by the Center for Automotive Research (Ann Arbor, MI), however, “finds the automotive industry is not only ‘high-tech,’ it is frequently a leader in technological developments and applications.”
James D. SawyerThe study was prepared for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Washington, DC).

According to CAR the report quantifies the current level of technology in the auto industry and compares it to industries that are generally considered to be technologically advanced. CAR reviewed the work of government agencies and other researchers in order to develop “a working definition to differentiate high-tech industries from other sectors.”

Among the specific findings in the report:
• In the US alone the industry spends $18 billion—an average of $1200 per vehicle sold—each year on R&D. Globally the figure is nearly $100 billion annually. In fact, the CAR report states, “the auto industry provides 16% of total worldwide R&D funding for all industries.”
• Close to 60,000 people are employed in automotive research and development activities in the US.
• The auto industry employs more engineers per every 1000 jobs than other major industries.
• Historically, 3–5% of all US patents are granted to the auto industry, amounting in recent years to about 5000 new patents annually.
• The auto industry has been a primary driver in the use of robotics in manufacturing. It also is a leader in the use of digital engineering and advanced materials.

A complete copy of the report may be accessed here.

Published Date : 1/8/2014

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