Climate change and the slow reorientation of the American car industry (1979-2018): An application and extension of the Dialectic Issue LifeCycle (DILC) model

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This paper uses the Dialectic Issue Life Cycle-model (DILC-model) to analyze the co-evolution of the cli-mate change problem and strategic responses from the American car industry. The longitudinal and multi-dimensional analysis investigates the dynamics of the climate change problem in terms of socio-political mobilization by social movements, scientists, wider publics and policymakers. It also analyses how U.S. automakers responded to mounting pressures with socio-political, economic and innovation strategies oriented towards low-carbon propulsion technologies. We use a mixed methodology with a quantitative analysis of various time-series and an in-depth qualitative case study, which traces inter-actions between problem-related pressures and industry responses. We conclude that U.S. automakers are slowly reorienting towards low-carbon technologies, but due to weakening pressures have not yet fully committed to comprehensive development and marketing. The paper not only applies the DILC-model, but also proposes three elaborations: (a) the continued diversity of technical solutions, and ‘ups and downs’ in future expectations, creates uncertainty which delays strategic reorientation; (b) firms may develop radical innovations for political and social purposes in early phases of the model; (c) issue lifecycles are also shaped by external influences from other problems and contexts.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1029-1048
Number of pages20
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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