Research into local, sustainable car manufacturing has led to the development of a new business model, adopted by manufacturing companies.


  • Axon Automotive, a specialist vehicle manufacturer which produces ultra-light energy efficient vehicles, has based its business model on the MFR model developed by Dr Nieuwenhuis and Professor Wells.
  • UK firms Riversimple and Gordon Murray Design have used aspects of the model in their business.
  • The research provided Gordon Murray Design with a deeper understanding of the theory behind sustainable car manufacturing. The company has used this to show potential customers the basis of its manufacturing approach.
  • The researchers have continued to work with car manufacturers around the world, including some companies with business models that contain aspects of the MFR model.

"The MFR model provided us, as a small car company, with a good way of breaking into an established market." (Steven Cousins, founder of Axon Automotive)

About the research

Traditional car manufacturing generally relies on mass production and low unit costs, with little emphasis on sustainability. Professor Peter Wells and Dr Paul Nieuwenhuis, from the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School, have developed a model for sustainable, local car manufacturing which pioneers the use of more lightweight, durable and sustainable materials. Their idea of low volume production has been adopted by several car manufacturers.

Funded through the ESRC Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS), the aim of the Micro Factory Retailing (MFR) project is to create a comprehensive new business model for vehicle manufacturing which puts sustainability at the heart of production. This means shifting car manufacturing towards small factories in local markets, with all aspects of the industry based on a local level - from design and manufacturing to sales and maintenance. The MFR model focuses on low volume production and the use of more durable, sustainable materials. This contrasts with the traditional model of high volume-low unit cost which has led to an over-supply of new cars.

The researchers worked with both UK-based and international firms when developing their business model, which has already been adopted by the car manufacturer Axon Automotive. The research has also helped another company, Gordon Murray Design, to demonstrate the foundations for their own model for sustainable car manufacturing.

Both for Axon and Gordon Murray Design the relationship with the researchers were felt to be mutually beneficial, as the companies are kept up to date on the latest research and ideas in the industry, and the academics get to see and learn from aspects of the MFR model working in practice.