The fuzzy front end (FFE) of new product development (NPD) is a term that refers to the early stages of the innovation process. This paper investigates the FFE in the automotive industry and addresses the challenges of working in this phase of the innovation process, as well as the academic definition of the FFE relative to the real world. Two parts of the innovation process have been identified and characterized as FFE: the concept-work within satellite front-end departments and the work within the pre-development phase of the vehicle new product development process. It has been identified that one of the greatest challenges related to working in the FFE is developing viable concepts that will “sell” internally. Estimating and conveying the overall value of the final product in terms of costs and customer benefits are two of the key elements that make it difficult to achieve internal “buy in”. Furthermore, it is argued that the most common academic perception of the FFE seem to be inadequate since it only concerns work that ends with a go/no-go decision whether to continue into development or not. Consequently, it fails to capture early-stage development work of transformational innovations, where the decision of development has already been made and the uncertainty is related to the execution of the work — and — not the outcome. Semi-structured interviews with a total of eleven employees at seven different automotive OEMs form the basis for the conclusions made herein.

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