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What Do Windshield Wipers, Cruise Control, and Winton Motor Company All Have In Common?

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Mary Anderson and the Windshield Wipers

Mary Anderson, who visited NYC on a snowy day in the early 1900s, saw the need for manual wipers that the driver could use from inside the vehicle. In 1905, Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers to improve driving in rain and snow. Before the invention of windshield wipers, drivers would have to repeatedly get out of their cars and clean off the windshield by hand.

Mary Anderson’s invention took time to catch on with car manufacturers – motor cars at the time were yet to catch on and had little commercial value. By 1913, however, manual windshield wipers were standard equipment on cars.

Ralph Teetor and Cruise Control

Fast forward to 1948, and a blind man named Ralph Teetor invented cruise control – a functionality that allowed for cars to maintain a constant speed to save fuel and ease traffic congestion. Of course, Mr. Teetor did not drive himself. The real reason behind the invention was his distaste for his driver, who would slow down and speed up repetitively while they were talking. Despite its seemingly simple reason, this invention had a huge impact on the automotive industry. Today, we now have adaptive cruise control, which is considered the first step in autonomous driving.

Who Made the First Automobile?

Automobiles are widely accepted as Henry Ford’s claim to fame, but the real first motor car was produced by Alexander Winton of the Winton Motor Company. However, Winton’s cars were expensive, and he could not achieve mass production. Unfortunately, this meant that he had only produced 690 cars by 1922, and he could not keep pace with Henry Ford.

Ford, who was able to build cars for the masses much less expensively utilizing his assembly line, came out on top. The Winton Motor Company ceased operations in 1924.

All three of these folks were pioneers in the automotive industry. Perhaps they gave way to more prominent names in the industry, but there is no denying the impact of their contributions.

Are You the Next Alexander Winton or Henry Ford?

Pioneers look for gaps in the marketplace where new opportunities exist for improving on current industry offerings, whether that is by delivering established products and services in a new way or introducing a completely original product, the early innovators tend to become the market leaders.

The terms “Changemaker” and “Disruptor” are becoming more and more frequently used as aspirational table stakes across the automotive industry. Of the challenges and opportunities that this creates, there is an overwhelming move within automotive to lead industry change.

While the first Motor Car was built by Alexander Winton, it took the ingenuity of Henry Ford with the modern assembly line to bring automobiles efficiently to the masses. In turn, he created the very foundation of the automotive industry.

In short, both entrepreneurs were extremely valuable and made a huge difference in the industry. Both the invention itself and the ingenuity and pragmatism of making it a success are key.

What Does Automotive Innovation Look Like Going Forward?

Today, there are more opportunities than ever in automotive.  In some ways, I feel like the pace of innovation and change is unrivaled – and it certainly must be to match the fact that consumer preferences and needs are also in a constant state of flux.

At Perficient, we have been helping OEMs with our Now, New, Next framework. This analysis is a cross-industry benchmark of customer-facing features and capabilities that help determine audience expectations, assess competitive position, and inform your product portfolio.​ We work with our clients to establish where your OEM is positioned in relation to the larger industry regarding table stakes, what is emerging, and what is happening in the next few years.

This model has been a great way to help OEMs think about their priorities and define opportunities where they want to lead and other areas where they may choose not to prioritize at this time.

We have done this modeling on EVs, connectivity, dealerships, consumer needs, and commercial vehicles, just to name a few. Our global automotive team is working with the top OEMs and leading automotive brands to help them accelerate their business outcomes.

Tap into Perficient’s automotive expertise to participate in our Now, New, Next (N3) workshop and drive your business outcomes.

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Keith Tomatore

A long-time senior executive in the auto industry who has held the position of SVP, Retail Marketing at Global Team Blue (GTB, a WPP Company) on the Ford Retail Business. In this role, Keith worked with the Ford Dealer Associations across the country to help them with their Precision Marketing and digital efforts. Also, he served as CEO of iFrog Marketing Solutions, which focused on Automotive advertising solutions for Tier 2 and Tier 3.

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