The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by fuel efficiency, emission standards, fuel economy and thermal management, and safety features, and growing importance of technologies such as actuators, sensors, control software, telematics, and connectivity. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.7 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in automotive: active grille shutters. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

300+ innovations will shape the automotive industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over one million patents, there are 300+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, integrated multi-motor drivetrains, electric power steering (EPS), and post-collision handling are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Variable compression engines, V2V distance monitoring, and turbocharger shaft bearings are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among the maturing innovation areas are kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) and plasma-jet ignition, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Active grille shutters is a key innovation area in automotive

Active grille shutters are controllable mechanisms installed on a vehicle grille to regulate the flow of air into the engine compartment, thereby improving vehicle fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. They can be automated to open or close depending on the vehicle speed, ambient temperature, or engine requirements.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of active grille shutters.

Key players in active grille shutters – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to active grille shutters

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Hyundai Mobis 31 Unlock Company Profile
Magna International 34 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 48 Unlock Company Profile
Tata Motors 15 Unlock Company Profile
Subaru 11 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 130 Unlock Company Profile
TEIKOKU PISTON RING 31 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo 60 Unlock Company Profile
Truck Hero 35 Unlock Company Profile
Dongfeng Motor 15 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 100 Unlock Company Profile
Aisin 23 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 13 Unlock Company Profile
Hanon Systems 15 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 13 Unlock Company Profile
Renault 19 Unlock Company Profile
Suzuki Motor 18 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 41 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 41 Unlock Company Profile
Komatsu 14 Unlock Company Profile
Compagnie de Saint-Gobain 23 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 82 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 51 Unlock Company Profile
Toyoda Gosei 25 Unlock Company Profile
Nitto Denko 11 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 32 Unlock Company Profile
Burelle 39 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 27 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 80 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 147 Unlock Company Profile
LUND 12 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 19 Unlock Company Profile
Magna Exteriors 28 Unlock Company Profile
KGIC Merger 10 Unlock Company Profile
Coplus 10 Unlock Company Profile
Decoma (Germany) 14 Unlock Company Profile
Jiangyin Excellent Automotive Trim 70 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Ford Motors (Ford) is one of the leading patent filers in active grille shutters.  Ford invested in grille design innovation to ensure the shutters worked effectively with the vehicle's overall design. The shutters were seamlessly integrated into the grille, preserving the vehicle's aesthetic appeal. Ford invested in grille design innovation to ensure the shutters worked effectively with the vehicle's overall design. The shutters were seamlessly integrated into the grille, preserving the vehicle's aesthetic appeal. Ford's active grille shutter systems were designed to be smart and adaptive. They could automatically adjust the position of the grille shutters based on various factors, including vehicle speed, engine temperature, and climate conditions. This adaptability contributed to improved aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. Toyota Motors, Hyundai Motors, and Porsche Automobile are some of the other key patent filers in active grille shutters.

In terms of application diversity, Compagnie de Saint-Gobain leads the pack, while Nitto Denko and Flex stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Compagnie de Saint-Gobain held the top position, followed by Truck Hero and Flex.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.