Purpose: The experience of successful firms has proven that one of the most important ways to promote co-learning and create successful networked innovations is the proper application of inter-organizational knowledge mechanisms. This study aims to use a resource-action-performance framework to open the black box on the relationship between networking capability and innovation performance. The research population embraces companies in the Iranian automotive industry. Design/methodology/approach: Due to the latent nature of the variables studied, the required data are collected through a web-based cross-sectional survey. First, the content validity of the measurement tool is evaluated by experts. Then, a pre-test is conducted to assess the reliability of the measurement tool. All data are gathered by the Iranian Vehicle Manufacturers Association (IVMA) and Iranian Auto Parts Manufacturers Association (IAPMA) samples. The power analysis method and G*Power software are used to determine the sample size. Moreover, SmartPLS 3 and IBM SPSS 25 software are used for data analysis of the conceptual model and relating hypotheses. Findings: The results of this study indicated that the relationships between networking capability, inter-organizational knowledge mechanisms and inter-organizational learning result in a self-reinforcing loop, with a marked impact on firm innovation performance. Originality/value: Since there is little understanding of the interdependencies of networking capability, inter-organizational knowledge mechanisms, co-learning and their effect on firm innovation performance, most previous research studies have focused on only one or two of the above-mentioned variables. Thus, their cumulative effect has not examined yet. Looking at inter-organizational relationships from a network perspective and knowledge-based view (KBV), and to consider the simultaneous effect of knowledge mechanisms and learning as intermediary actions alongside, to consider the performance effect of the capability-building process, are the main advantages of this research.