Car manufacturers are under continued pressure to design cars that meet changing consumer demands and strict environmental targets in relation to CO2. This has led to an emphasis on developing new, leading edge innovative solutions in the industry. In line with industry trends Formula One (F1) has been changing its regulations, providing a focus on fuel consumption and hybrid power units (FIA, 2014). This has resulted in calls for car manufacturers to work more closely with F1 in terms of developing new innovative engine and hybrid solutions suitable for road cars. This paper will focus on and analyse to what extent F1 fits the lead user model and whether F1 should be considered a lead user by car manufactures.
In the early 1970s von Hippel’s (1976) research showed that users, as well as producers can be major sources of innovation. Further research lead to users being divided into different groups depending on their potential contributions to innovation (Conway & Steward, 2009). One of the user groups identified were lead users, a group and model which was first conceived by von Hippel (1986). Lead users are defined as being users ahead of important marketplace trends and that they experience high benefits from innovating (Riggs and von Hippel 1994). They are said to come up with innovations themselves in order to meet their leading edge needs that can’t be satisfied by readily available solutions (Urban and von Hippel, 1988). It can also be said that the lead users’ needs of today can potentially become the needs of the broader market tomorrow and there have been several academic studies providing support for the lead user theory (von Hippel, 1986. Morrison et al., 2000; Urban and von Hippel, 1988. Franke et al. 2006). Based on these studies the lead user model can be divided into 4 stages, each of which is outlined below.
1. Specify lead user indicators - Lead users are defined as being ahead of the market with respect to a certain trend. A second indicator is that they experience a high degree of benefits from solving the specific problem and getting ahead of the trend.
2. Identify Lead User Group – Once trend and benefit indicators have been identified research can be undertaken to identify lead users. Various forms of analysis can take place to identify groups that are at the leading edge of the trends and experience high expected benefits from their solutions.
3. Generating Concepts with Lead Users – The third step involves collecting data from lead users in terms of their experiences, knowledge and ideas. This data may be applied to modifying existing products or to designing new products to meet the client’s needs.
4. Testing the Lead User Concept –Research suggests that in general the early adopters needs differ to the broader market that follow them (Rogers, 1962). Lead user concepts must therefore be evaluated by more typical users in the target market. This can be done using traditional product testing procedures.
Using the model above F1 will be analysed to what extent it can be used as a lead user for car manufacturers.
1. Specify lead user indicators - Road car manufacturers across Europe have been put under pressure to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (EC Regulation No. 443/2009 http://www.dft.gov.uk/vca/fcb/cars-and-carbon-dioxide.asp). The CO2 emissions of a car are directly proportional to the quantity of fuel consumed by an engine which has prompted a trend of cutting fuel consumption and introducing hybrid engines.
2. Identify Lead User Group – based on the indicators specified in stage 1 we can say F1 is going in a similar direction, regulations have been changed introducing strict limits on fuel consumption and hybrid engines. The regulation changes forced F1 to research and develop new solutions driven by F1 teams dissatisfaction with existing products/solutions. It is therefore logical to think that there is a high expected…