Belfast, Ireland – BMW tops a list of 17 of the world’s leading car companies for the sustainability of its automobile manufacturing, according to a new study by researchers at Queen’s University Management School in Belfast.

The study, Sustainable Value in Automobile Manufacturing, covers 1999 to 2007 and takes into full account the societal impacts of car production, including the volume of greenhouse gas emissions from production facilities, the number of recorded work accidents, how efficiently manufacturers use key natural resources compared with their industry peers, and how much profit or loss was generated with these resources.

The study found that Asian manufacturers are outperforming their North American competitors, and many of their European competitors, in using their economic, environmental and social resources more efficiently. Sustainable value includes not just the use of economic capital, but also environmental and social resources. The ratio of sustainable value to sales was calculated so that different companies were compared directly irrespective of their size.

General Motors’ poor financial performance was accompanied by the worst sustainability performance recorded. In the report, Asian manufacturers Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, Honda, and to a lesser extent, Suzuki have all outperformed their North American competitors. Both Ford and General Motors were well into negative territory, with GM showing the most striking downside trend.

European manufacturers were mixed. While BMW topped the ranking of all 17 automakers in the years assessed, PSA (Peugeot/Citroën), Renault, Volkswagen, and DaimlerChrysler/Daimler AG only occasionally kept pace with the industry leaders. Fiat Auto consistently fell behind throughout the entire review period.

“Economic crisis, energy crisis, climate crisis and recent global developments have affected the automobile industry like few other sectors,” said Professor Frank Figge, an author of the study. “Never before has it been as important for car manufacturers to employ their economic, environmental and social resources wisely and efficiently. However, while issues such as fleet consumption and CO2 emissions have been firmly put on the public agenda, the equally considerable environmental impact of the production phase of car manufacturing has as yet been largely ignored. The survey attempts to close this gap.”

The researchers said that accessing sustainability data for the whole sector remains a problem. Tata was assessed for the first time in 2007, and narrowly beat the benchmark for 2009, while Porsche, Kia and Chinese companies do not provide sufficient data, and Daihatsu could not be included for 2007 due to insufficient reporting.

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