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Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku discusses a hydrogen future at the 2015 Las Vegas CES in January (Photo: Toyota)

Toyota and Volkswagen Group have been the top automotive innovators in the past 10 years, according to a new ranking compiled by Germany's Center of Automotive Management.

The think tank looked at the best 100 innovations from global carmakers over the past decade. The ranking was based on market and technology relevance as well as the degree of innovation that characterized products.

Using these criteria, CAM put Toyota's fuel-cell vehicle, the Mirai, in first place, followed by Tesla's electric sports sedan, the Model S, and the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid.

Next came Daimler's Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control; Volkswagen's innovative XL1 fuel-efficient hybrid; and the carmaker's Emergency Assist technology.

Among the top 100 biggest innovations there were 46 that could be classified as connected-car technologies. Alternative powertrain technologies took 16 of the top 100 spots.

CAM Director Stefan Bratzel said in a press release that a heightened innovation push among carmakers has in the last 10 years pushed the industry into "radical" new directions. "Next to electric mobility, we saw the birth of issues such as connectivity and autonomous driving," Bratzel said.

The researcher noted that non-traditional automotive players such as Tesla, Google and Apple have been catalysts of change, which has, in turn, motivated conventional carmakers to perform even better in the area of innovation.

The Volkswagen Group, with its 12 brands, led automakers with 19 of the 100 best innovations, followed by premium carmakers BMW and Daimler. Toyota was in third place with seven innovations.