An EU research project has concluded that it is possible to build cars to order within five days - dramatically cutting waste and emissions from transporting the goods.
The Intelligent Logistics for Innovative Product Technologies (ILIPT) project involved 29 partners including BMW and the UK's University of Bath.
It concluded that this method of manufacturing would also free up large amounts of capital that car companies could invest in new green technology, encourage manufacturers to make changes more quickly, and help to keep production in Europe.
Traditionally, the body of a car is manufactured in a single steel shell, and set numbers are produced in a range of specifications.
The ILIPT is examining how to build the car body from a number of standard, pre-formed modules that can be put together as soon as an order is placed.
It has also developed a model that will allow the software systems of the dealership, manufacturer and part suppliers to work together seamlessly.
Dr Glenn Parry, senior fellow at the University of Bath's School of Management and a core team leader at the ILIPT project, told edie the system would have many benefits.
"To do it in five days, it has got to be local. We have got to start building the cars closers to the customer. That's inherent in this.
"That gives you social benefits because it keeps the jobs in Europe, in our case.
"It gives you an environmental benefit because you are not shipping large quantities of vehicles all over the world."
He said many manufacturers have billions tied up in stock awaiting sale that could instead be invested in clean technology.
Dr Parry added: "If you are building to order, not holding vehicles in stock, you are also more inclined to change quickly."
But he argued skills will be needed to drive the new methods that ILIPT has devised, and the University has already launched an MSc in Innovation and Technology Management to fill this demand.
ILIPT's findings will shortly be published in a book entitled Build to Order - The Road to the Five-Day Car.
Dr Parry told edie that leading European car manufacturers - who he could not name - are already working on a way to revolutionise their manufacturing processes using the project's findings.
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