The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for increased comfort and enhanced driving experience, and growing importance of technologies such as machine learning and Internet of Things. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.2 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Automotive: Vehicle upholstery. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal, 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 stabilising 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.

290+ 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 619,000 patents, there are 290+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, resilient spoke wheels, auto-transmission lubrication circuits, and ignition switching engines are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Engine purge actuators, electro-dynamic braking, and adsorptive vapour recovery system estimation are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are collision avoidance braking control system and direct injection type engines, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Vehicle upholstery is a key innovation area in automotive

Vehicle upholstery refers to the materials and coverings used to furnish the interior of a vehicle, including the seats, door panels, headliners, dashboard, and other surfaces. It involves the application of various materials such as fabric, leather, vinyl, or synthetic materials to provide comfort, aesthetics, and durability to the vehicle's interior.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each vehicle upholstery and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 60+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of vehicle upholstery.

Key players in vehicle upholstery – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to vehicle upholstery

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Toray Industries 118 Unlock Company Profile
Continental 46 Unlock Company Profile
Modern Meadow 44 Unlock Company Profile
Teijin 40 Unlock Company Profile
B&C Private Foundation 39 Unlock Company Profile
LG 33 Unlock Company Profile
Kuraray 31 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Boshoku 31 Unlock Company Profile
BASF 30 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsui Chemicals 28 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Gas Chemical 24 Unlock Company Profile
Draexlmaier Lisa 22 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 20 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 20 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Steel 19 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 18 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 18 Unlock Company Profile
AGC 16 Unlock Company Profile
Gurit Holding 16 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor Group 15 Unlock Company Profile
Kyowa Leather Cloth 15 Unlock Company Profile
Compagnie de Saint-Gobain 14 Unlock Company Profile
Sekisui Kasei 14 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 13 Unlock Company Profile
Proprietect 12 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 12 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 11 Unlock Company Profile
Toyoda Gosei 11 Unlock Company Profile
Sekisui Chemical 11 Unlock Company Profile
Renco Group 11 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 11 Unlock Company Profile
TSUCHIYA 11 Unlock Company Profile
Johnson Controls International 11 Unlock Company Profile
Magna International 10 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce Holdings 10 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 10 Unlock Company Profile
Covestro 10 Unlock Company Profile
Freudenberg 10 Unlock Company Profile
Lear 10 Unlock Company Profile
Milliken & Co 10 Unlock Company Profile
Leonardo 10 Unlock Company Profile
JX Nippon Oil and Energy 10 Unlock Company Profile
Eissmann Automotive Deutschland 9 Unlock Company Profile
Mubadala Investment 8 Unlock Company Profile
Wisk Aero 8 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Steel Nisshin 8 Unlock Company Profile
Faurecia 8 Unlock Company Profile
Immunolight 8 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 8 Unlock Company Profile
Fuji Heavy Industries 8 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toray Industries is a key player in the vehicle upholstery innovation area. Toray’s upholstery fabrics are made from luxurious ULTRASUEDE or partially plant derived ECODEAR polyester, which helps car manufacturers create more comfortable and environmentally friendly seats. Toray’s upholstery makes vehicles quieter, more attractive, and more comfortable to ride. Modern Meadow, Continental, Teijin, and B&C Private Foundation are some of the other key players.

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.