Increasing demand from consumers plus EU legislation has raised awareness within the automotive production sector of the urgent need to reduce the environmental impacts from the three main stages in vehicle life – car manufacture, car use and end-of life vehicle processing. The paper reviews how the originator and manufacturer of the smart automobile has worked directly with its main system partners to address environmental issues in these three stages while optimizing performance across the parameters of commercial viability. This required the creation of strategic relationships within the supply chain. Overall, this innovative approach is viewed in the context of a total product system. The smart car highlights the following critical areas: use of modularity in product design and production facility layout; emphasis on partner participation from product creation to after-sales; and the use of highly customised build-to-order product system to 'green' the entire supply chain. In particular, the case study compares the process characteristics empoyed at the smart car factory, called 'smartville', with more traditional approaches to vehicle manufacture. It exmaines these issues in a preliminary attempt to establish the actual or potential reduction of environmental impact in the three stages of vehicle life, including the role of main suppliers in this process
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