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Revealed: The Car Brands Driving Automotive Innovation

Revealed: The Car Brands Driving Automotive Innovation

Every year, car brands submit thousands of patents to protect their technology – giving them the sole right to use and implement it in their cars. This has become more important than ever due to the move to electric and eventually autonomous driving. With less moving parts and a massive hardware upgrade, cars will soon become more like your PC or Mac than an assembly of purely mechanical parts, making patents even more important.

Bristol Street Motors were keen to find out which car brands are driving automotive innovation in this regard. Using Google Patents, which draws data from more than 100 of the biggest patent offices from around the world, we've picked out who is investing the most into brand new technologies such as electric and autonomous-based driving.

Key Findings

  • Toyota has submitted over 384,000 patents since over the last decade, the most of any car brand.
  • Ford is pushing autonomous technology more than any other car company.
  • Toyota has submitted the most electric-based patents in the last 10 years.
  • Automotive patent filings decreased by 89% between 2018 and 2020.

 

Keep reading to find out more.

Toyota has submitted over 384,000 patents over the past decade, the most of any car brand

Toyota is, by far, the automotive brand that has submitted the most patents to guard their technological advancements over the last 10 years. Since the beginning of 2011, they have submitted over 380,000 patents, an average of around 31,650 per year. This is double the amount of their closest rival in this regard, Hyundai, that submitted around 184,000 patents.

In fact, our top 10 list showing the car brands with the largest number of patent submissions is dominated by car brands hailing from Asia, with Toyota, Hyundai, Honda and Nissan all featuring in the top 5 positions. This once again shows that the region is the world's primary hub for automotive innovation.

According to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, one of the largest law firms in the world, "Automotive is now the third most active sector for worldwide patent filings behind telecoms and computing – and the rate of growth is faster than in any other industry." The number of patents submitted by each car brand on our list would certainly reflect this.

Ford is pushing autonomous technology more than any other car company

Autonomous technology in the automotive industry may still be some way off yet, but that hasn't stopped the world's leading car brands from patenting their technological research. Ford is the industry leader in this regard. In 2011, the car brand submitted 330 patents. However, fast forward to 2020 and Ford has submitted a combined total of 14,354 automotive patents over the last decade.

In October this year, Ford unveiled a new self-driving test vehicle set for a 2022 launch, undoubtedly the end result of many long hours in research and development. John Davis, chief engineer of Ford's autonomous vehicle subsidiary said, "With our fourth-generation test vehicle, we have everything we need from a vehicle to stand up our self-driving service."

Toyota is also focusing heavily on driverless tech with nearly 13,000 patent filings. One curious automotive player on the list is Ferrari. With part of the fun of owning a one of these iconic sporty motors being the driving experience, it's surprising that they would be one of the top 10 companies planning for a driverless future.

Toyota has submitted the most EV patents in the last 10 years

Although in 2019 there were 2.1 million electric car sales globally, some may argue that the technology is still in the early stages of its development and adoption. There are a few kinks still to iron out, in terms of charging times, range of each vehicle and the price to name a few. It's no surprise that given the low emission targets in place around the world, that car brands would focus on making electric cars more efficient and budget-friendly to own.

Toyota is lightyears ahead of the competition when it comes to patent filings for electric tech, showing a keen interest in the sector. In the previous 10 years, the car company has submitted over 143,000 electric-focused patents, more than double of any other car brand.

Only as recently as April 2020, Toyota passed its goal of 15 million hybrid electric vehicle sales globally, again showing the car brand's commitment towards a sustainable future. In Europe the sold 2.8m hybrid cars "allowing it to be a leading automaker towards EU CO2 reduction targets in 2020 and 2021" according to their website.

Automotive patent filings decreased by 89% between 2018 and 2020

When conducting our research into automotive patents, we noticed that there has been a substantial decrease in the number filed over the last two years. The figures above show the amount of car brand-related patents that were filed in each year since 2018. As you can see, each car brand has decreased the number of patents filed by over 90%, with Renault dropping their submission by a huge 99.5%. We also cross checked this information using the European Patent Office's Espacenet to confirm these findings.

It's the same across the board, even for those that didn't make the top 10 list above. The least impacted by this phenomenon is BMW, but the car brand still decreased their patent filings by a sizeable 70.4%.

One can only speculate the reasoning behind this, with the COVID-19 pandemic potentially having a major impact on manufacturers ability to work due to lockdowns in numerous major countries since March.

Methodology

Pre- and post-COVID patents were sourced and counted using Google Patents. Electric and autonomous patents were also sourced and counted using Google Patents but included the words "electric" and "autonomous" within them. The car brands that we included in the research:

  • Toyota
  • Hyundai
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Nissan
  • Volkswagen
  • BMW
  • Audi
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Peugeot
  • Renault
  • Mazda
  • Fiat
  • Volvo
  • Porsche
  • Land Rover
  • Ferrari
  • Subaru
  • Chevrolet
  • Lamborghini

Make sure to bookmark the Bristol Street Motors news page for other automotive content, including our recently published Road To Nowhere interactive map outlining the location of the UK's abandoned roads and their cost.