Innovative solutions for Magna‘s new hybrid system 2.0 deriving from user needs

Sommersemester 2012 

Executive Summary 

Background and Problem Statement 

As the global automotive industry is facing several challenges as environmental issues and growing urbanization and shifting customer behavior, OEMs are required to quickly find new approaches to future mobility (KPMG, 2012). Regional regulations and harsh legislations as well as social, economic and mobility-concerned megatrends lead to the need to find cost- and emission-sensitive solutions, while accounting for comfort and driving experience within the car.  The project partner Magna Powertrain is an operating group within the leading supplier of technologically-advanced automotive systems, Magna International, and offers full capabilities in powertrain design, development, testing and manufacturing (Magna Powertrain, 2012). Although current developments in the sector of micro- and mild-hybrids are very promising, there is still significant improvement potential towards the system’s adaptability and the flawless and environmental-friendly functioning. Hence, given the fierce competition within this industry, a prompt reaction to market needs and the improvement of existing systems is pivotal for maintaining and gaining global market share in the short- and longterm. 

Project goal 

The goal of this innovation project is to find new, innovative solutions for Magna Powertrain’s hybrid car applications deriving from user needs. More specifically, the objective is that the minimal hybrid solutions shall be perceived by the end customer as a valuable improvement, while driving the car.  Since Magna Powertrain is strongly focusing on offering superior quality to their customers, the main emphasis of this innovation project, was put on the improvement of current powertrain systems and on the development of novel solutions in the field of minimal hybrid systems. Following it’s motto “A better product for a better price”, the company puts the focus on a new generation of hybrid drive systems that addresses mass-market needs, particularly in terms of significantly improved comfort and functionality at a very competitive cost level, being attractive for mass markets.  Micro and mild hybrid solutions have up to now been perceived as less comfortable and reliable than full hybrid solutions, especially in heavy traffic situations with many start-stop applications. These are the shortcomings, which are to be addressed in the conduct of the innovative lead-user project. 

Approach and methodology 

In a market of short product life cycles and fast paced innovations, firms cannot rely solely on their own product development to satisfy constantly changing user needs. Following the principles of open innovation, an increasing number of firms draw on the ideas and inputs from their users.  A particular form of user driven innovation is the lead user method that aims at involving those people who are on the leading edge (where some needs of the target industry are experienced in advance or in a higher degree of urgency) of relevant markets and technologies and expect high benefits from possible innovations in the respective fields in return (Von Hippel, 1986). For that matter, lead users anticipate important market trends and are able to contribute their solution-oriented experience based on their particular background or, at best, are able to generate new solutions for the particular issues.  The project consisted of three main phases, which lead user and experts aimed at identifying needs and trends in the first place and finding Lead Users and Experts, which meet at the innovation workshop eventually.  The initial research phase has been conducted by means of 280 interviews, phone calls and online forum postings as well as 278 secondary data sources and resulted in the identification of 13 major trends. These results have been clustered and broken down into 3 main needs, which functioned as a starting point for identifying the lead users and experts. Eventually, from 80 suitable interviewees, 9 people participated at the innovation workshop and developed, together with Magna representatives, solutions for the particular trends. 

Findings and Analysis 

The concepts and ideas that have been developed during the workshop concentrated on the areas of extended (electric) functionalities, improving the motion, a personalized start-stop function, enhancing the comfort and a refined fuel efficiency together with outside technologies in order to reduce cost. The lead users from their various target and analogous market backgrounds contributed with novel and innovative knowledge to find smart and out-of the-box solutions to improve the driving experience in terms of functionalities, additional applications and efficiency. The best contributions and ideas of the lead users and experts have been analyzed thoroughly, presented, discussed and assessed in terms of potential implementation and collaborations. Magna Powertrain will now evaluate the developed concepts against technical feasibility and mass market potential. 


  • Magna Powertrain Homepage (2012), Retrieved on: June 19th, 2012

  • KPMG (2012), KPMG’s Global Automotive Executive Survey 2012, global-automotive-survey-2012/pages/default.aspx. Retrieved on: June 19th, 2012

  • Von Hippel, Lead Users: A Source of Novel Product Concepts, 1986

Cooperation Partner 

  • MAGNA Powertrain AG, Global
    Industriestraße 35
    8502 Lannach 

  • Contact Person
    Wolfgang Ekam
    (Director Innovations- and
    E-Mail: wolfgang.ekam@ 

Student Team 

  • Daniel Colm
    Robert Czafik
    Sandra Dietrich
    Ioana-Delia Dragan
    Adriana Drob
    Peter Fritsch
    Lena Hoser
    Frauke Kruse
    Stephanie Lukesch
    Sylwia Natalia Majdanik
    Vanessa Peiker
    Stefan Richter
    Benjamin Schwärzler
    Johannes Karl Stefan
    Sandra Zulehner