Competitive warfare The impact of electric cars on the oil & refinery industry and their countermeasures



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Models


The following table shows a short overview over Tesla’s currently built vehicles and a selection of technical specifications.




Powertrain

HP

0 - 60 mph

Range

Roadster

100% electric

288

3,9 sec

236 miles

Roadster S

100% electric

288

3,7 sec

N/A

Model S

100% electric

N/A

5,6 sec

300 miles

Model S

(Signature)

100% electric

N/A

5,6 sec

300 miles


Table 3: Technical specifications

Source: Tesla Motors, Inc., www.teslamotors.com/buy/buyshowroom.php



The table shows that the battery system used by Tesla Motors is already capable of providing enough power for regular, daily short and medium trips. Also other specifications are worth further consideration. Both the acceleration and horsepower are comparable to other sports cars. There is even one further advantage of the electric engine. Unlike normal gasoline or diesel engines, where torque has to be built up during acceleration, electric engines provide the driver with 100% torque at any rpm-range (Tesla Motors, 2010d).
    1. Battery system


The energy storage system (ESS) used in Tesla vehicles contains of a Lithium (Li) ion battery pack and is one of the most efficient and technically advanced Li-ion battery packs worldwide. Li-ion batteries can be found in various items of daily life; they are used in cell phones, laptops and other applications. In the case of Tesla’s ESS it contains of 6,800 small Li-ion battery cells, reaching a total mass of 450kg (Tesla Motors, 2010e).
    1. Environmental benefits and incentives


Being 100% electrically powered vehicles, Tesla vehicles do not produce any emissions themselves and can be powered by electricity generated from 100% renewable sources. Hence the wide introduction of electric vehicles will lead to a reduction of a country’s dependency on fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. Trying to support existing and potential drivers of electric vehicles, there are several incentives making the purchase of such vehicle more attractive. For example, in the state of California, the following incentives apply:

  • Tax rebate of $ 5,000 for vehicles purchased/leased after March 15, 2010

  • Single occupancy of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes

  • Free parking in several areas, e.g. Sacramento

  • Reduced charging rates.



  1. Initiatives and Incentives for Electric Vehicles – Selected National Cases

    1. Austrian Mobile Power


The ambition of Austrian Mobile Power (AMP) is the promotion of electric vehicles and alternative powertrains in Austria. AMP’s ambitious goal is to have 100,000 EVs in operation by 2020. “In 2050, there will then only be purely electrically powered vehicles in Austria. At best, petroleum will only be found in the gearbox of our cars, and emissions will only come from the radio” (AMP, 2010). AMP’s approach is to use renewable sources of energy, which Austria is rich of, for the electrification of said vehicles. Their development partners include: Siemens (electric and mechanic engineering), Verbund (electric energy utility), Magna (automotive supplier), KTM (automotive sector), the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) and many other companies from the technology and energy sector.

    1. Austrian Federal Ministry for Traffic, Innovation and Technology


In Austria the Federal Ministry for Traffic, Innovation and Technology has launched a program to introduce electrification and to promote a mentality of seeing traffic and mobility as an issue of traffic, infrastructure, technology, energy and environment and is an important economic issue. Also their ambition is to introduce electrification of traffic as part of the solution of energy problems in the future and needs the cooperation of numerous partners throughout Austria (BMVIT, 2010). In this case the approach to reaching these goals is similar the approach used by AMP. Taking advantage of combined know-how of companies operating in technology, energy and business related sectors has the potential of efficiently developing sustainable solutions for traffic in the future.

  1. Theories


The following chapter will briefly summarize selected theories used to delineate strategic reaction patterns in the following. These are (1) Porter’s (1980) Five Forces and (2) Williamson´s (1981) theory of Transaction Cost Economics and (2) the aim of this chapter is to explain the theoretical basis of these theories.
    1. Porter’s Five Forces


A business environment is usually accompanied by severe competition and risks. The structure of an economy, and a company’s ability to deal with given circumstances, can decide over success or failure of an enterprise. According to Porter there are five fundamental forces of competition, also known as “Porter’s Five Forces” (1980, 2008). They will be explained in the following section (Wallentowitz et. al, 2009):


  • Rivalry: Rivalry amongst contestants can take many different forms. A very simple form of course is price competition (i.e. “be cheaper”), but may also be found as marketing and advertisement campaigns, introduction of new products or extended warranty periods and services.

The intensity of rivalry can be influenced e.g. by the following factors:

    • Many/equally equipped competitors

    • Growth within a certain economy

    • High fixed costs and high costs of storage

    • Differences between the products

    • Exit barriers (i.e. sunk costs)

  • Market entry of new competitors: New competitors are often equipped with large amounts of capital to successfully penetrate the market by lowering the price, increasing the cost for existing producers thus reducing the profitability. Yet this implies that a new contestant has to overcome the (often very high) market entry barriers. There are numerous factors that may cause or result in a market entry barrier:

    • Economies of scale

    • Product differentiation

    • Capital requirements

    • Access to market channels

    • Cost advantages

    • Governmental policies

    • Retaliatory measures

  • Threat of substitution: Fear of substitution is a very common issue in many businesses, predominantly due to two reasons. (1) Substitutes may limit the profitability within an economy, thus setting a price cap to products and (2) are able to reduce the market share of existing companies. This is usually a longer procedure though, because the consumers need some time to find out about a substitute and then have to switch their consumption habits.

  • Negotiation power of the consumers: The target group of a certain product can, if of sufficient size, have a major impact on the behaviour of a company. They can demand lower prices or higher quality or performance and hence play the competitors off against each other.

The following features characterize a strong target group:

    • Large share of total sales to a certain group

    • Sold products are of significant amount/value

    • Standardised products

    • Low conversion costs

  • Negotiation power of the suppliers: By taking advantage of their market power suppliers may threat to raise prices or, on the other hand, lower quality.

This is especially the case when:

    • A few suppliers dominate the market and hence hold enough market power

    • Substitutes are not available

    • Volume of sales to a certain party is considerably small, therefore market power can be opposed on the buyer

    • High influence of suppliers goods on the buyer’s cost structure

    • High conversion costs for the buyer



    1. Transaction Cost Economics


The Transaction Cost Economics (TCE) theory by Williamson (1981, 2007) consists of 3 basic factors, these are (Averyt & Ramagopal, 1999):

  • Specificity: The higher the specificity of a certain asset, the more resources have been invested by the supplier, making the asset highly tailored to the needs of one certain party.

  • Uncertainty: High uncertainty shows that a company is operating in a market environment marked by high turbulence and risk.

  • Frequency: A certain raw material or other component is purchased at a high frequency and therefore many similar transactions have to be dealt with.

The larger the first two factors (specificity and uncertainty) are the more likely it becomes that a company will try to internalize the handling of such transactions, mainly in order to protect its know-how on certain goods. The internalization of such transactions increases the company’s transaction costs; this can be seen as the price to protect know-how.

The opposite happens with an increase of the third factor (frequency). In this case the more often a certain transaction has to be done the more likely it is that the purchase can be standardised and know-how can be protected by a so called blanket contract, thus reducing transaction costs (Averyt & Ramagopal, 1999).



Depending on current market situations a company will find itself with a certain transaction cost equilibrium, according to its market power and transaction cost conditions. Yet in a highly competitive business environment, like the oil & gas or automotive industry, competitors will be keen on disrupting a company’s transaction cost equilibrium and shifting it in order to reduce their contestant’s competitiveness. This usually is achieved systematically and is called “strategic disruption”. Strategic disruption may also involve governing entities in order to protect domestic companies from outside competition, for example Rules of Origin and Local Content Regulations (Averyt & Ramagopal, 1999).

  • Local Content Regulations: LCRs are regulations imposed by a governing entity ensuring that certain quotas for the use of domestic goods are fulfilled during production.

  • Rules of Origin: RoO are, like LCRs, imposed by governing entities. Their function is to regulate the amounts of goods/raw materials in terms of origin. Not only do RoO show how big the proportion of domestically produced goods has to be, they show from which other country goods may come from.

Both, LCRs and RoO, can be classified as non-tariff trade barriers and therefore can act as market entry barriers for new, potential competitors (Averyt & Ramagopal, 1999).


  1. Strategies


Since the market positions of the conventional automotive and particularly of the oil & gas industries are clearly endangered, the respective companies will consider methods how to minimize competition or strengthen their own position. Thoughts of how to tackle the issue might include e.g. to:

  • turn its gas station network around into e-loading stations; to cover the cost of changeover and “sunk costs” the industry might demand public support (direct) or additional leeway for turning its gas stations in to full-fledged supermarkets (indirect)

  • try to lobby against e-cars (and their public support)

  • monopolize the necessary technology by e.g. acquiring the battery producers, patents, resources necessary to build these etc.

  • team up with the successful new e-car producers (following the strategy “if you can´t beat them, join them”)

  • Pay for studies (media articles…) that discuss the overly high cost of e-cars, their disadvantages (e.g. accidents because you do not hear the cars approaching; high societal changeover costs; job losses; rising electricity prices; lack of supply…)

  • Improve the energy efficiency of conventional petroleum & diesel engines, and favour/pay for research in this area to raise the “hurdle” for e-cars
    1. Entry barriers


In a business field companies’ actions can influence their competitors’ behavior, e.g. erecting entry barriers to ward off new technologies and competitors. Depending on different cost structures of two companies, the first one being in a certain market position and the second trying to inherit a place on the market, and different expectations the party with the most market power can hinder or promote innovation, thus changing a competitors cost structure and making it harder, or even impossible, to compete.

If an industry earns a return on capital in excess of its cost in capital, it will act as a magnet to firms outside the industry. If the entry of new firms is unrestricted, the rate of profit will fall toward its competitive level. […] An absence of sunk costs makes an industry vulnerable to ´hit-and-run´ entry whenever established firms raise their prices above the competitive level. In most industries, however, new entrants cannot enter on equal terms with those of established firms” (Grant, 2008).

Creane and Miyagiwa (2009) describe two situations. In the first situation a market entrant develops a new technology in order to enter a market. The market leader, in this case a monopoly, therefore has a strong incentive to invent and patent the new technology before its contestants do. Otherwise the monopoly risks that the new entrant, who uses a new technology, might be able to produce at lower cost and therefore be able to replace the prior market leader.

The second situation describes a situation in which the market leader acts oppositely. Whereas the standard case is to promote innovation in order to hinder competition through new technology, Creane and Miyagiwa (2009) argue that there is another possible approach. In this case the market leader, even though facing research and development costs of zero, is tempted not to promote innovation. The general thought is that by blocking innovation, and thereby making new technology unavailable to potential market entrants, the cost of innovation would have to be taken over by the entrant. This is referred to as “raising –the-rival’s-cost-strategy” (Creane & Miyagiwa, 2009).


    1. Strategic Disruption


The concept of strategic disruption is based on the principles of Transaction Cost Economics (TCE) and utilizes these principles in order to manipulate a competitor’s transaction cost structure, thus shifting the cost equilibrium to the competitor’s disadvantage. (Averyt & Ramagopal, 1999) “According to TCE, a firm will establish a governance structure (such as arm’s length contract, internalization, or a hybrid approach) guided by the attributes of the transaction in question” (Averyt & Ramagopal, 1999).

According to the theory of Transaction Cost Economics summarized earlier, companies can impose policies of strategic disruption against the governance structure of their opponents. This was also the case in the US, when the powerful car manufacturers, i.e. Ford, Chrysler and GM – also known as the Big Three, felt endangered by Japanese OEMs entering the market.

Averyt and Ramagopal (1999) examine two specific examples of this method of strategic disruption. Local Content Regulations and Rules of Origin were imposed by the US government. The effect of these regulations was that Japanese OEMs had to (1) move their plants to the US instead of importing their vehicles from Japan and (2) furthermore had to make sure that a specific threshold of the raw materials and parts used was of US origin. Consequently they were no longer able to profit from their traditional network of suppliers (known as kyoryokukai) and had to turn to domestic, i.e. American, suppliers.

Both, Local Content Regulations and Rules of Origin, aim at one goal precisely: Shifting the cost equilibrium of possible outside contestants and hence reducing their profitability. In other words: Making the production of goods more expensive for the outside contestant. Although it is not a matter of innovation or technology, the aim and outcome of this strategy is very similar to the strategy discussed above – increasing the competitor’s cost or reducing his profitability in order to force the competitor out of the market.


    1. Diversification


Acknowledging the fact that sources of fossil fuels are getting scarce and exploration of sufficient oil and gas supplies more and more difficult, companies and countries alike have admitted the need for alternatives, or at least supplemental fields of business. Their aim therefore can be pinned out at diversification of business fields.

In May 2001, Vice President Cheney acknowledged that US oil production would fall 12% over the next 20 years. Subsequently US dependence on foreign oil would continue to rise, and foreign oil imports would reach approximately two thirds of US oil demand by 2020. (Karoui, 2006) Very similar was the core statement of the French Prime Minister De Villepin in 2005. He stated that it was necessary to implement a new energy policy and to strive for energy independence due to increasing energy demand world wide, also triggered by the economic upswing in the BRIC-countries. De Villepin’s concept aimed at technological innovation and energy independence and was built on three pillars (Karoui, 2006).

The first pillar was massive investment in energy policy. De Villepin called for the French oil company Total to invest in more refining capacity. The second pillar was renewable energy, with a special focus on hydroelectricity and bio-fuels. The third pillar of his program were energy savings and the promotion of energy saving, low-consumption cars, solar heaters, etc. (Karoui, 2006).

The US and France were not the only countries to have noticed these problems. The governments of Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Alaska for example have a fund for future generations which is supposed to provide revenue when oil runs out (Karoui, 2006). Saudi Arabia, the holder of the world’s largest oil reserves, also is planning on diversifying its petroleum-dependent economy to secure revenue in the future. “To diversify the economy is a matter of life and death for Saudi Arabia,” says Saudi economist Ihsan Bu Hulaiga in The Wall Street Journal. A statement which may be confirmed true when looking at Saudi Arabia’s export statistics: 90% of export revenues and 80% of budget revenues are generated in the petroleum sector. Their future aim is to boost their industry, reaching 20% of GDP by 2020 – twice as much as today (The Wall Street Journal, 2010). “Much if this growth has come from energy-intensive and hydrocarbon-based industries such as petrochemicals, which have thrived on the availability of cheap natural gas. Today, Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s biggest producers of basic and intermediate petrochemicals such as polyethylene and polypropylene, which are exported to Asia and used to make plastic consumer goods. […] But they need to not just produce the feedstock and the basic petrochemicals; they need to move into the advanced petrochemicals that have a very high added value component. […] While petrochemicals have been a cornerstone in the ongoing diversification process, other industries have taken on increasingly prominent roles in recent years. Mining in particular has emerged as an important pillar because of the country’s large bauxite, phosphate and gold resources” (The Wall Street Journal, 2010).

Increasing fuel prices and environmental regulations have made gas guzzlers quite unpopular for most consumers. Therefore, even US carmakers have started to offer smaller, more fuel efficient cars (The Economist, 2010). Apart from fuel efficient engines carmakers have also introduced many other concepts to react to current developments and try to remain in a stable position. But not only OEMs have faced these different economic times, their suppliers and oil companies have taken certain measures too. In the following three examples shall be discussed briefly.

The Austrian based oil and gas company OMV has set up a project called “Future Energy Fund” under which it presents new projects and technologies for the development of renewable sources of energy. Three main goals have been set out, these are:



  • Development of new business opportunities for OMV in the renewable energy field;

  • Acquisition of know-how and experience in the renewable energy field;

  • Achievement of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (OMV, 2010).

The areas of research include bio-fuels of the 2nd generation, including bio-diesel and bio-ethanol, Hydrogen filling stations in Graz and Stuttgart, a bio-gas project in Romania, geothermal energy projects in Austria and Romania and many others (OMV, 2010). By shifting research into these multiple energy fields OMV most likely attempts to (1) secure itself a good position in the European energy sector for the future, then being able to provide technically mature methods of alternative energy supply, thus securing income. (2) Also, this strategy can been used not only to secure future income and develop know-how, it puts OMV in a strong competitive position once the pressure starts increasing (and this is just a matter of time). An early established knowledge and financial base will be necessary if OMV do not want to be overtaken by competitors who may then impose market entry barriers and hinder future success.

Total, a French oil company, which is quite known for its lubricants and special fuels, also took a similar step like OMV. Their approach, apart from offering a broad variety of different lubricants, which may be used in various types of machinery and appliances, was to cooperate with the Danish company Vestas, producers of wind turbines (Total, 2010). Since wind turbines need a lot of lubricant and wind energy as a form of alternative energy is up and coming, cooperating with Vestas makes perfect sense and gives Total the opportunity of developing a good revenue base for the future.

Automotive supplier Bosch of Germany has also read the signs of time and is keen on reducing their dependence on the car industry. Although Bosch is the largest supplier in the automotive industry and has regularly introduced important innovations to the market, their goal, like OMV and Total, is to shift into other businesses. According to Handelsblatt (2010) Bosch is seeking to use the growth potential of business models that combine the internet and software applications that would connect and control various devices in the energy, mobility, health and environmental sector. Bosch plans to invest €2 billion in acquisitions in the next years. In recent years Bosch has invested €2 billion in acquisitions in the field of solar power, (Handelsblatt, 2010) which is a very interesting move. Apart from supplying parts and modules to the car industry investing in solar power opens the door to supplying electricity, also to electric vehicles. This attempt secures revenue from the car industry by using two approaches – one; supplying parts to the automotive industry as they did before and securing their market share in this field. Two: Providing solar panels that will also be erected to produce electricity which then can be used in electric vehicles. As seen before this is a strategy of diversification, like OMV and Total, combined with a strategy of acquiring businesses to broaden (by buying) know-how.

    1. Prolongation


Given the fact the biggest proportion of worldwide traffic – be it on water, airborne, commercial and most of all individual transportation - is running on fossil fuels changing the motorization spectrum is a tedious process. Consequently oil and gas companies together with OEMs are working on maintaining this business field. To prolong the period of leadership of fossil fuels in the transportation sector oil companies not only are keen on developing new, more efficient fuels – e.g. diesel fuels and natural gas – finding new, sufficient and reliable sources of oil and gas as crucial to the oil and gas sector. While the exploration of new oil fields is often very difficult and technically challenging, a new source for oil has been found in large quantity – oil sands. “Northern Alberta is home to the oil sands, one of the world’s largest known oil deposits. This resource is considered second in size only to those found in Saudi Arabia, but comes with its share of challenges given the way the oil is trapped in the sand. The oil sands contain a ‘heavy’ form of crude oil that requires special extraction methods to get it out of ground and into a form where it is fluid enough to travel down pipelines for refining into gasoline and other hydrocarbon products” (Conoco Philips, 2010).

This clearly shows that at time great attention is paid on maintaining competitiveness in the energy sector is on exploring and developing new sources of crude oil. This might be due to the fact that oil companies may have the position that the electrification of traffic will be a long way down the road and may be dealt with intensively a little later.



When looking at the following graph, one can see that above the above discussed topics of diversification and prolongation play an important role for companies. Both arguments can be spotted in the next graph which the Boston Consulting Group (2009) describes as “Electrification Path”.
Figure 5: Electrification Path

Source: The Boston Consulting Group, The Comeback of The Electric Car?, 2009


  1. Conclusion


The electric car may be seen as the vehicle of the future. The problem is to predict a precise time period for that to happen globally. Even though first steps have been taken, it is still a long way down the road until electric vehicles (EVs) will be as affordable, competitive and reliable as common vehicles. Still, significant efforts have been achieved in developing new solutions for the future demand for energy in the sector of transportation and have to be promoted further on.

The evidence for the necessity of different power sources is clear, the statistics on oil consumption show this very clearly. Even though oil and gas companies currently might not see this threat as the biggest, moving into the business of solutions for electric vehicles and alternative power sources will become much a bigger issue in the upcoming years. Other risks and problems might be more important and challenging to these firms today, but the importance of reducing the global dependence on oil will rise constantly.

From applying concepts like competitive advantage (Porter, 1981), transaction cost economics (Williamson, 1981) and strategic disruption (Averyt & Ramagopal, 1999), we find that oil companies react in a dual mode to the threat of substitution of gas engines by e-cars by (1) using strategies like diversification and prolongation in trying to turn the threat into an opportunity and by (2) trying to delay the switch to e-cars. Whereas oil and gas companies are trying to improve efficiency of their products and try to provide substitutes of a similar kind (e.g. natural gas instead of gasoline) – which in this paper is referred to prolongation – they will also need to constantly diversify their field of business and consequently their source of revenue. Regarding EVs, oil companies might try to reduce the success of EVs by trying to change their governance structure. The reason is that oil companies will have to fear losing governmental support (e.g. tax benefits in the USA), monies that most likely will flow into the support of EV-technology and also infrastructure suitable for EVs. Two aspects might be a powerful argument in this discussion. The first is that oil companies could state that charging EVs at the same time (in the evening) might affect the power supply for different sectors. Secondly, they might argue that currently used batteries do not offer sufficient range for daily traffic and have to be disposed of correctly at the end of their life time.

On the other hand it is quite clear that the electrification of traffic will be a slow, gradual process - a process with which the power suppliers will have to deal with by enlarging capacities and improving efficiency. As argued by Maass (2009), national stakeholders naturally also play a role, “Though oil provides fuel for our cars and warmth for our homes, it undermines most countries that possess it and, along with natural gas and coal, poisons the environment. We need to find another way”. This issue could be investigated in further research e.g. applying stakeholder analysis.



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1 Sean Philipp (sean.philipp@chello.at; corresponding author) is a graduate student at the WU Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, Vienna, Austria. Peter Haiss (peter.haiss@wu.a.c.at) lectures at the Institute of International Business (http://www.wu.ac.at/auha/english/ ), WU Vienna University of Economics and Business and is with UniCredit Bank Austria, Vienna. The opinions expressed are the author´s personal views. For more of our research, see http://ssrn.com/author=115752 or http://wu-wien.academia.edu/PeterHaiss/Papers



October 15-16, 2010

Rome, Italy



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