Constructing temporal manoeuvring space: The transition of the car industry to electric cars

Christina Bidmon (assistant professor, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University) presents her work on the transition towards electric cars.

How actors evaluate the prospects of the fields that emerge around novel technologies changes over time. In this study, we employ a framing lens to study how the five largest German car manufacturers communicated about their position on electric vehicles (EVs) and plans to engage in the emerging field during the 25-year period from 1993 to 2018. Based on 125 letters to shareholders and 336 public interviews with CEOs, we find that the car manufacturers dynamically shifted between stirring and tempering expectations about the technology, even at a point when they had committed to electrifying major parts of their portfolios. We introduce the concept of temporal maneuvering space to explain how temporal framing is employed to construct a gap between near and distant future that serves to legitimize the own actions in the present while maintaining ambiguity about the exact timing and scope of future actions. What actors communicate about the prospects of a novel technology and their own plans to engage in emerging fields is relevant because it can guide meaning-making and prospective action in other actors.

Christina Bidmon is an Assistant Professor for Innovation Studies at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University. Christina researches how societal change processes such as sustainability transitions and the digital transformation affect organizations’ innovation strategies and, in turn, how organizations’ innovation efforts affect institutional arrangements. Christina has a background in business and management and holds a PhD in Business and Social Science from Aarhus BSS in Denmark. Her work is qualitative and has received recognitions such as a Division Best Paper Award from the Academy of Management. Current research includes the transformation of incumbents in the plant based protein transition, circular business implementation, and the role of digital business models in the sustainability transformation of markets. 

Published May 10, 2022 11:57 AM - Last modified May 10, 2022 11:57 AM