Manufacturing Rivalries

A little healthy competition can go a long way. Some of the most innovative technologies available today can be attributed to rival engineering and manufacturing companies pushing themselves to ever greater lengths to gain the upper hand and produce a superior product. Here are some of the most well known...


Apple and Samsung


Perhaps the most high-profile manufacturing rivalry today is the one between Apple and Samsung. While both have extensive product lines, their most infamous battleground has been the one in the smartphone market – and neither company has made any attempt to hide it. Their fierce competition has led to massive profits for Apple and Samsung, as well as several public attacks through adverts and lawsuits. Each has accused the other of stealing patented technology, such as Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung for copying the design of the iPhone with the Galaxy S and Apple copying Samsung with a shift to larger screens, after Apple had previously poked fun at the technology.


Research has shown the see-saw effect on the smartphone market based on Apple and Samsung’s product releases – when one company does well, the other does not. For example, Apple traditionally releases new iPhones in the fall, which leads to strong Q4 revenue, while Samsung typically drops new phones each spring, leading to a noticeable gain in market share during Q2 each year.


Ford and GM


Two of the biggest car manufacturers in the U.S., Ford and General Motors (GM) have been rivals for more than a century. Headquartered only 11.5 miles apart in Detroit, the companies have been duking it out for decades over product development, market share and profits. Ford was the first of the two out of the gate and held steady market share through the 1920s, thanks to the success of the Model T, the first car brought to the masses at a low cost. However, they didn’t hold the lead long and for the better part of the past 80 years, GM has been a leader in market share. While GM went through a shaky period in the past decade – including a $12 billion bailout – it still holds the top spot for U.S. car sales.


Both Ford and GM have made it known that they are not fans of one another, including Ford marketing chief Jim Farley, who was quoted in 2011 saying, “I hate them [GM] and what they stand for.”


Airbus and Boeing


The aviation industry wouldn’t be where it is today without the rivalry between Airbus (a subsidiary of Franco-German defense giant EADS) and Boeing, which has been raging for more than 40 years. The competition is so tight that it has been classified by some as a duopoly since the mid-1990s, as other manufacturers in the industry were no longer in a position to compete and profit and therefore withdrew from the market. In an illustration of just how close the competition is, in the 10 years from 2004 to 2013, Airbus received 8,933 orders while delivering 4,824, and Boeing received 8,428 orders while delivering 4,458.


The rivalry between Airbus and Boeing is heated – each company has regularly accused the other of receiving unfair state aid from their respective governments. In addition, when Boeing faced several delays with its much-anticipated 787 Dreamliner, Airbus released attack ads depicting Boeing planes with a Pinocchio nose.


Are you a brand loyalist when it comes to rival manufacturers? Is heated competition healthy for the engineering industry, or are some of these companies guilty of trading professionalism for point-scoring? Do tabloid rivalries obscure smaller businesses and independent voices in the market? As ever, please share your thoughts and insights in the comments section below.