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by Tim Beissmann

Volkswagen is the biggest investor in research and development in the global automotive industry.

The German manufacturing giant outlaid more than $US9.2 billion ($8.8 billion) last year in R&D investment, putting it more than $US700 million ($666 million) ahead of the second-highest spender Toyota, which spent $US8.5 billion ($8.1 billion).

General Motors – currently the world’s largest vehicle manufacturer – ranked third, more than $US2.2 billion ($2.1 billion) off the pace set by Volkswagen at slightly less than $US7 billion.

Daimler ($US6.5 billion) and Honda ($US5.7 billion) rounded out the top five, ahead of Ford, Nissan, BMW, PSA (Peugeot/Citroen) and Renault.

Perhaps surprisingly, Korean innovators Hyundai and Kia ranked 11th and 14th for R&D spending respectively, although added together they ranked ahead of PSA in eighth position with an investment of $US2.9 billion.

The data, compiled by Autoline Detroit, also measures the brand’s R&D investments as a percentage of their revenue.

From this perspective, BMW and Honda filled the top two positions, with 5.5 per cent of their revenue from last year reinvested into research and development.

Volkswagen was close behind on 5.4 per cent, while GM (5.1 per cent) and Daimler (5.0 per cent) made up the top five.

Ford and Toyota spent a considerably smaller proportion of their revenue on R&D last year – 3.9 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively.

Hyundai and Kia again filled the lower rungs of the ladder, with a combined R&D investment of around 2.1 per cent of revenue.