Local Motors

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= maker of the Rally Fighter, a car designed through Crowdsourcing; the first open source car company to reach production

URL = http://www.local-motors.com/

Description

1.

Via Mupoto:

"Local Motors wants to build C.O.O.L cars. They invite a large community or car enthusiasts to participate in the development of their car. But this is where the similarities with Powell Motors ends, because Local Motors decides to decide differently. While Homer was the decider with rather unfortunately results, Local Motors doesn’t let the community decide everything. The don’t leave them alone to figure things out and show up at the end to see the result.

Local Motors cleverly picks some things to do themselves (chasis design), some to leave to other manufacturers (door handles from a Miata, I think) and then they choose a few areas to get some help (body styling). And then for good measure they borrow some ideas from IKEA for assembly. The people who submit body designs are specialists, but the people giving feedback, encouragement and voting on their favorites are prospective customers.

Seeing the Rally Fighter now, it is easy to see what all the fuss is about. I stopped caring about cars sometime ago, but I want this one.

The Rally Fighter, well it is still too soon to say that this will be a commercial success, but it looks very encouraging.

Local Motors is using crowdsourcing – making very clear choices about where and how they want the crowd involved, how things are owned and they are discussing with the crowd as they go and experimenting to see what works (we love recursiveness almost as much as crowdsourcery). It sounds a lot like the process experiments that saw Linux depart from the traditional processes of its time, or the cleverly organized participation in WordPress or Mozilla as they go up against traditionally organized competitors." (http://mutopo.com/2009/11/18/two-tales-of-crowdsourcery-the-homer-and-the-rally-fighter/)


2. Wired's Chris Anderson:

"Local Motors, the first open source car company to reach production. Step inside and the office reveals itself as a mind-blowing example of the power of micro-factories.

In June, Local Motors will officially release the Rally Fighter, a $50,000 off-road (but street-legal) racer. The design was crowdsourced, as was the selection of mostly off-the-shelf components, and the final assembly will be done by the customers themselves in local assembly centers as part of a “build experience.” Several more designs are in the pipeline, and the company says it can take a new vehicle from sketch to market in 18 months, about the time it takes Detroit to change the specs on some door trim. Each design is released under a share-friendly Creative Commons license, and customers are encouraged to enhance the designs and produce their own components that they can sell to their peers.

The Rally Fighter was prototyped in the workshop at the back of the Wareham office, but manufacturing muscle also came from Factory Five Racing, a kit-car company and Local Motors investor located just down the road. Of course, the kit-car business has been around for decades, standing as a proof of concept for how small manufacturing can work in the car industry. Kit cars combine hand-welded steel tube chassis and fiberglass bodies with stock engines and accessories. Amateurs assemble the cars at their homes, which exempts the vehicles from many regulatory restrictions (similar to home-built experimental aircraft). Factory Five has sold about 8,000 kits to date.

While the community crafted the exterior, Local Motors designed or selected the chassis, engine, and transmission thanks to relationships with companies like Penske Automotive Group, which helped the firm source everything from dashboard dials to the new BMW clean diesel engine the Rally Fighter will use. This combination — have the pros handle the elements that are critical to performance, safety, and manufacturability while the community designs the parts that give the car its shape and style — allows crowdsourcing to work even for a product whose use has life-and-death implications.

Local Motors plans to release between 500 and 2,000 units of each model. It’s a niche vehicle; it won’t compete with the major automakers but rather fill in the gaps in the marketplace for unique designs. Rogers uses the analogy of a jar of marbles, each of which represents a vehicle from a major automaker. In between the marbles is empty space, space that can be filled with grains of sand — and those grains are Local Motors cars.

Local Motors has just 10 full-time employees (that number will grow to more than 50 as it opens build centers, the first of which will be in Phoenix), holds almost no inventory, and purchases components and prepares kits only after buyers have made a down payment and reserved a build date." (http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/01/ff_newrevolution/)


Discussion

From the FAQ:

"To compete with the major auto manufacturers, it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. However, we do not intend to compete with them in terms of size or mass appeal. Our focus is specifically car enthusiasts and design lovers. We intend a simpler product and a lower volume. You might ask then why customers will pay for that simplicity, and we would answer that the specialized local nature of the business is meant to make up for that differentiation. We are ALL ABOUT bringing the fun of cars back to people’s hometown. Think of Micro-Beer for cars or Organic Food markets. What would you pay more for: a generic beer purchased at a 7-11, or a custom Micro-Brew? Where would you rather shop: an Organic Food Market with local produce, or a Supermarket Chain? The products at these types of local places are simpler and created with less manufacturing complexity, though they cost more because they are special and lower volume. Therefore, we do not intend to create a large OEM only to sell cars through dealerships. Volume is not our thing.

How will Local Motors sell cars?

Cars will be sold from specialized facilities distributed across the United States. These local facilities will not only stimulate local economies, they will be a source of pride for the entire community. Local Motors will create an aspirational experience of scarcity driven demand whereby the local factory will create a Wonka-like fascination with its products and methods. Not only will it sell its cars, but it will sell the experience of people being able to visit and watch their car being "born.""


More Information

  1. Product Hacking