Jaguar Land Rover, a cash-rich subsidiary of Tata Motors, has been a source of major financial relief for the Mumbai based company in recent years. JLR posted 16 percent growth in retail sales in the past year, highest in the luxury car segment globally.
Demand for its new models, such as Range Rover Evoque, has beaten expectations. The car’s key feature ‘Active Driveline’ is a classic example of systematic innovation resulting in business success.
Let’s take a closer look at this feature for which JLR was declared the ‘New Products Innovation’ category winner at the Tata Innovista 2014 awards.
Four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles are great for off-roading on rough terrains like sand dunes, snow-laden roads and even swamps, but this comes at the cost of fuel efficiency and greater wear and tear. While 4WD cars usually have the option of switching to 2WD on good roads, it involves driver discretion and effort which is a pain point for many users.
One way in which the industry has addressed this challenge is the recent trend of AWD (All Wheel Drive) vehicles. AWDs work much like 4WDs, but do not offer the same power and high traction.
The Solution: Active Driveline
Jaguar Land Rover and UK based automotive components manufacturer GKN Driveline have been working together since 2009 to improve drivetrain efficiency in the Range Rover Evoque.
This collaboration has led to the introduction of features like e-Diff technology, to shuffle power between the rear wheels, and what JLR calls Torque Vectoring by Braking, which distributes power between all four wheels to limit understeer. But the innovation that has really grabbed the headlines is the ‘Active Driveline’, described by JLR as the world’s first ‘on demand’ four-wheel drive system.
This feature, that was made available in the 2014 edition, enables the car to automatically switch to front-wheel drive (2WD) when on stable ground. This automatic switch helps in lowering fuel consumption by up to 11.4 percent and reduces CO2 emissions by up to 9.5 percent. Thereafter, whenever the systems detect that the four-wheel drive is needed, such as when the car hits a speed above 180 km/h, or encounters harsh terrain, the Active Driveline automatically makes the switch within 300 milliseconds.
The tech leap
In the video below, Land Rover’s Senior Manager for Driveline Engineering, Steve Mullane, explains the complex technology that went into creating this innovation:
Welcomed with open arms
Active Driveline was introduced in 2014’s Range Rover Evoque as a key feature and got rave reviews from both experts and ordinary users. Matt Saunders, in his review on AutoCar said:
It could show the Audi a trick or two with its balance and the way it communicates with the driver.
Dan Prosser of PistonHeads claims:
The biggest compliment to pay is that you just aren’t aware of what’s going on in normal driving.
Motoring Australia asked Murray Dietsch, the company’s Director of Programmes, whether selling the technology to other car manufacturers will be on JLR’s agenda, to which his answer was:
No, we wouldn’t do that. It’s something that we would hold to ourselves. Brand-defining technology like Active Driveline is not something that we would want to share.
Indeed, sharing a breakthrough innovation with competitors isn’t a great idea but it could always be extended to other models in the JLR lineup in the future.
What are the lessons from this example for other companies looking for similar industry-defining innovations? Naresh Shahani of BMGI believes that the systematic approach to innovation at JLR is a great example of the concept of addressing “outcome expectations”, as outlined in the book Innovator’s Toolkit. He defines them as solution-neutral hiring criteria used by customers while evaluating how well the solution meets their needs.
“Companies need to identify sub-optimal solutions currently prevalent in mature product categories and work towards generating ideas and concepts that can be implemented to create product differentiation,” says Shahani. By eliminating the need for driver discretion and reducing fuel usage, JLR’s Active Driveline has set a new benchmark in a crowded marketplace.