Paradigmatic shifts in technology and its cousin, radical innovation, are the focus of this thesis. As a process, paradigmatic shifts are usually long-winded and anything but straightforward. Accordingly, the changes they bring come as a challenge to established industry. Various management and policy implications have been deduced by studying how automakers have addressed one such potential shift: the electrification of road transport as incorporated into battery, fuel cell and hybrid electric vehicles.
Data came mainly via interviews focusing on Volvo Cars/Sweden and Toyota/Japan. Electric propulsion and the internal combustion engine paradigm have been alternatives and, in 1997, the Toyota Prius became the first mass-produced hybrid-electric vehicle. In 2010, various battery-dominated solutions suffuse the public debate, but large-scale market introduction of such plug-in vehicles is yet to happen.
This thesis extends a new theoretical concept of the interparadigmatic hybrid, using it to explore the activities of managers and policymakers. The conclusions are that policy has mostly targeted full electrification in one go, without stimulating a gradual (techno-)logical development towards electrified vehicles. Moreover, most innovative activities have taken place within firms. Based on these findings, it is argued that small actors like the car makers in Sweden have limited opportunity to benefit from the kind of first move made by Toyota with its hybrid electric vehicle.