Toyota vs Volkswagen: diverse paths toward sustainable mobility

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Detroit (2022)


Research question and purpose.
In the context of the transition towards the electrification of mobility, OEMs have implemented different strategies regarding: the timing of abandonment of the production of vehicles with internal combustion engines, the location choices of investments that meet the requirements of environmental sustainability, specific strategies for the development of models in different market segments, strategic alliances in their current supply chains, which are being converted to support the green revolution, and in the creation of new segments of supply chains.
The paper compares the strategies of two OEMs, Toyota and Volkswagen, which have held in the last decade, respectively, the first and second positions in terms of market share.
In the past, the two OEMs have experienced very different developments in the diversification trajectories of their models. Toyota has invested since the 2000s in hybrid models and hydrogen. VW had maintained a strong lead on diesel engines until the "diesel gate" scandal in 2015 hit hard on its reputation as a company with a vested interest in environmental protection, and has in more recent years drawn on battery manufacturing developments, also linked to its manufacturing network in China.
The methodology (data and design).
The comparative analysis focuses on the networks of competencies activated by the two OEMs interacting with their suppliers and competitors. The information used is that available in the, a daily newsletter on the transition toward sustainable mobility. The paper updates, with the news published up to February 2022, the database elaborated by Russo et al. (2022) on Ad hoc extractions from the dataset create relevant data for the comparative analyses. The first one is the identification of news referring to Toyota and Volkswagen, extracting all the companies mentioned in those news. Those companies, classified with a NACE code and the country of origin, are then analysed in a temporal network framework. A second layer of data extraction refers to content analysis of all the news containing, respectively, Toyota, Volkswagen, and both. By using Atlas.ti, a semantic analysis will focus on a selection of terms (and synonyms) that qualify specific actions, in turn analysed in the network framework of the companies mentioned in those news items.
The main results
A first analysis outlines which companies mentioned in the news refer to each of the two OEMs, and describes in which domain the action mentioned in the news refers (in the main 8 domains identified by Russo et al., 2022) and which is the sector of activity of the companies and their geography.
For each domain, the analysis explores, in the period 2018-2022, three main themes: announcement of relevant economic actions (such as investment plans, planned increase of production, shutdown of plants, …); investments that have been realised; location of different type of vehicles, components and parts. With reference to announcements, the analysis examines their dynamics in relation to the industrial policies of Germany and Japan and relates announcements and market value of companies' shares and to competitors’ moves. With reference to investments, the amount and types of investments (mergers, acquisitions, new plants, reconversion of existing plants) will be compared. With regard to the localization of production, the analysis elaborates a map of current and new assembly sites and their supply networks, as declared by the published news on the strategies implemented by the two OEMs.
Practical and theoretical implications.
The picture that emerges illuminates the diverse trajectories pursued by the two current major players in the automotive sector in the course of its transition towards sustainable mobility and autonomous driving. It highlights the spatial and structural separation/overlapping of the two supply chains and critically discusses the public policies that have supported the strategic choices of Toyota and VW, marking their development trajectories in sustainable mobility.

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