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Business Strategies of Incumbents in the Market for Electric Vehicles: Opportunities and Incentives for Sustainable Innovation


  • J. H. Wesseling
  • E. M. M. I. Niesten
  • J. Faber
  • M. P. Hekkert


This paper focuses on the relation between large car manufacturers’ incentive and opportunity to innovate and their electric vehicle (EV) business strategies. We analyze how environmental regulation and the firm's incentive (measured by net income) and opportunity to innovate (measured by EV asset position, determined from a combination of patent, partnership and prototype data) affected EV sales over the period 1990–2011. During the EV's R&D period in the 1990s, large car manufacturers that were regulated by the full zero emission vehicle mandate developed a significantly stronger EV asset position, but did not sell significantly more EVs than their rivals. During the EV's commercialization period (2007–2011), large car manufacturers with both a strong incentive and a strong opportunity to innovate sold significantly more EVs. Based on these results, the paper offers a typology of business strategies, several managerial implications, and recommendations for policy makers to stimulate sustainable development. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment

Suggested Citation

  • J. H. Wesseling & E. M. M. I. Niesten & J. Faber & M. P. Hekkert, 2015. "Business Strategies of Incumbents in the Market for Electric Vehicles: Opportunities and Incentives for Sustainable Innovation," Business Strategy and the Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(6), pages 518-531, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:bstrat:v:24:y:2015:i:6:p:518-531

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    Cited by:

    1. Darmani, Anna & Niesten, Eva & Hekkert, Marko, 2014. "Which Investors Drive the Development of Wind Energy?," INDEK Working Paper Series 2014/8, Royal Institute of Technology, Department of Industrial Economics and Management.
    2. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:6:p:1071-1086 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:wdevel:v:96:y:2017:i:c:p:418-437 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Smink, Magda & Negro, Simona O. & Niesten, Eva & Hekkert, Marko P., 2015. "How mismatching institutional logics hinder niche–regime interaction and how boundary spanners intervene," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 225-237.
    5. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:7:p:1284-1298 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Brown, Richard S., 2016. "Lobbying, political connectedness and financial performance in the air transportation industry," Journal of Air Transport Management, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 61-69.
    7. Tuukka Mäkitie, 2019. "Corporate entrepreneurship and sustainability transitions: resource redeployment of oil and gas industry firms in floating wind power," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20190226, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.

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