Henry Foy:

The global car industry is spending more on research and development than ever before as manufacturers try to stay ahead of a rapidly shifting market and fierce competition from the technology industry.

Investment in new technologies to make cars more efficient, more interactive, run on new fuels and even begin to drive themselves is growing faster than sales and revenue, amid a period of technological disruption not seen in the industry since the birth of the internal combustion engine.

Research and development spending by the car industry has grown at an annual rate of 8 per cent over the past four years, eight times the rate of increase seen between 2001 and 2012, according to research by the Boston Consulting Group.

The news comes on the eve of the Detroit motor show, the industry’s first product showcase of the year, and traditionally the stage where the world’s biggest carmakers show off their most advanced new models.

The R&D push will be visible in launches of new vehicles such as Ford’s next-generation F-150 pick-up truck, which the carmaker says is its most advanced product on the market.