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Assessing dynamic capabilities of incumbents in the face of unprecedented industry transformation: the case of the automotive industry

Fabian Hoeft (The York Management School, University of York, York, UK)

Journal of Strategy and Management

ISSN: 1755-425X

Article publication date: 13 January 2021

Issue publication date: 3 May 2021




The purpose of this paper is to develop a holistic approach to the assessment of dynamic capabilities (DCs). Holistic refers to incorporating all DCs of an organisation relevant for determining and executing the firm's strategy.


A two-phase study was conducted. First, secondary sources, such as media, industry and annual reports, are being used to initially assess CASE (connected, autonomous, shared and electric) and implications for incumbent car manufacturers in a structured way. Second, semi-structured interviews with automotive managers and further automotive stakeholders offer in-depth insights into CASE, as well as incumbents' strategies and the underlying rationale.


The proposed framework for assessing DCs offers a holistic approach and provides new angles of analysis. First, the time dimension is considered using scenarios since timing is vital in strategy and implementation. Second, capabilities are broken down into technological and non-technological, sharpening strategic decision-making of automakers. Third, the analysis considers external VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) as they interplay with internal DCs.

Research limitations/implications

Further testing of the proposed DC assessment approach offers a promising opportunity for future research. This paper focuses on the automotive industry, but it is worth investigating the extent to which the approach can be used in other dynamic industries, such as finance or retail.


The approach proposed highlights the importance and nuances of considering external perspectives in the DC assessment and the relevance of non-technological capabilities in the automotive industry. Thereby, it contributes to the literature on capability assessments and the operationalisability of the DC lens.



The author would like to express her deep gratitude to Professor Teresa da Silva Lopes and Dr Snehasish Banerjee, her research supervisors, for their patient guidance, enthusiastic encouragement and useful critiques of this research work. The author would also like to thank Dr Yoo Jung Ha for her advice. The author’s grateful thanks are extended to the Journal of Strategy and Management editorial team and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Finally, the author wishes to thank Ray Awcock, Johanna Höft and Johannes Kremer for their support and encouragement throughout the study.


Hoeft, F. (2021), "Assessing dynamic capabilities of incumbents in the face of unprecedented industry transformation: the case of the automotive industry", Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 259-283.



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