The goal of the article is to use the concepts of catching‐up and leapfrogging that are most often found in the literature on developmental economics to explore the process by which newcomers overturn an established market leader.
The article uses two case studies, one of the initial development of the transistor radio by the Japanese and the other of the development of electric vehicles in China, to illustrate the application of these concepts to concrete examples.
The way in which Sony caught up with, and jumped ahead of, American radio manufacturers is explained using the concepts of catching‐up and leapfrogging to emphasize the different phases in the process. This is contrasted with the development of electric vehicles in China which is a process that is still unfolding. The potential importance of one particular development, the low speed electric vehicle, is highlighted.
The concepts of catching‐up and leapfrogging provide a simple method to visualize the ways in which a newcomer might overtake an incumbent. Their application to the case studies also highlights the crucial importance of a sound business model in this process.
Although the case of Sony and the transistor radio is relatively well known, this article places it in a new conceptual framework. The case of the development of electric vehicles in general, and the example of the low speed electric vehicle in particular, is new and has not been widely explored.
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