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Bo Chen PhD defense

Stratégies et Management de l'Innovation de Rupture dans les Pays Emergents : le cas du Véhicule Electrique en Chine

Thesis defended on the 26th of january at 2:00pm, at Campus de l’Ecole Polytechnique 91128 Palaiseau cedex, salle Amphi Becquerel.


The electric vehicle (EV) market in China is booming, but Western manufacturers are struggling to deploy their models in the world’s largest automotive market. However, carbon credits generated by EV sales are necessary for the survival of their gasoline car business in this market. Thus, what are the high potential strategic opportunities for foreign manufacturers? In collaboration with Renault and based on five missions in China between 2012 and 2016, this CIFRE research first draws a state of the art of the opaque EV market in China, a market generated top-down by government initiatives and bottom-up by a low-cost and illegal EV market (Micro EV). Taking into account this double product and market uncertainty, we develop a theoretical framework for strategic exploration based on the systematic combination of strategic variables. We identify two innovative routes not yet engaged by foreign manufacturers: "electric carsharing" and "low-cost EV". On the "electric car sharing" side, we compare Autolib’ (Paris) and United Journey (Shenzhen), two self-service stations-based systems. On the "low cost EV" side, we are deepening our knowledge of the illegal micro EV market. A field survey in Shandong Province characterizes the market as well as the regulatory scenarios of its legalization. Finally, we characterize the globalization of Renault's EV program in China, within the triple alliance with Nissan and the Chinese partner Dongfeng, as well as the organizational ambidexterity that accompanies it. After attempts to "exploit" the existing EV range in China, the President of the Renault-Nissan Alliance initiates the launch of an "exploratory" project, Kwid EV, a low-cost EV for China. This is the opportunity for this research to contribute to the initial hypotheses about the lower-end of the Chinese EV market and to characterize the lineage hybridization that takes place at Renault, between the EV lineage (European EV) and the low-cost lineage (Kwid in India), between two disjoined parts of the organization. The world becomes a testing ground for networked innovation, with test markets like China. Then, the goal is to make this first shot succeed before reversing the innovation.

Keywords: electric vehicle, innovation, China, lineage hybridization, low cost, strategy.


Christophe Midler Directeur de recherche, CNRS / École polytechnique Directeur de thèse
Yves Doz INSEAD Rapporteur
Bernard Jullien École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay Rapporteur
Sihem Ben Mahmoud-Jouini HEC Paris Examinateur
John Paul Macduffie University of Pennsylvania Examinateur
Robert Bonetto Renault S.A.S. Examinateur