Business - Written by on Thursday, February 18, 2010 9:55 - 11 Comments

Laura M.  Carrillo
Car 2.0 – How a community builds a car

With the global economy still on shaky ground and the auto industry taking a huge hit, I found it refreshing to find an automotive company thriving, and doing business in a completely new way. Local Motors is a custom car company best known for its Rally Fighter,  the first openly developed and community created car. The Rally Fighter is the result of 35,000 designs submitted by 2,900 community members representing over 100 countries. As you can see in the below picture, the community sure put together a pretty cool looking car. To me it looks more like a mix of a fighter plane and a tank.

rally_fighter_blog_2_18_10

The Rally Fighter was built for racing in the desert, and after checking out a few other designs I quickly realized that each car was built for specific geographic preferences. Other designs include the The Miami Roadster, The Green Apple (for The Big Apple) and my favorite The Boston Bullet, described below:

For “a city that gives innovation in a spirit of tradition.” The Bullet is Boston’s car, designed for narrow streets and a smooth ride while managing to capture the city’s cultural and ideological heritage.

Local Motors is challenging how new cars are created, holding design contests for each piece of the car from overall design, to the electrical systems, to the interior, to the name. The community prioritizes the ideas and develops those designs that have the most support. My favorite part is that once a full car design is complete, people order them online and the actual manufacturing is done by the new owner. Did you hear that? The new owner builds their own car! With help from the Local Motors team, owners learn how and then actually build an engine, put in windows, craft a brake system, everything! So not only is Local Motors offering designers a great way to collaborate around an exciting concept, they are offering their customers a very personalized experience. Taking the prosumer concept to the next level is no doubt creating a loyal following and a significant group of lifelong customers.

So, what about the major auto manufacturers? Is Local Motors planning to compete with them? How would that work? While the concept is most likely too specialized to ever take off in the mass market, Local Motors is hoping to work with major automakers. They see an opportunity to fill a niche that the major players just can’t fill as it is too cost prohibitive. I anticipate seeing some type of partnership, but given the innovative nature of this company it will most likely be structured like nothing we’ve seen before.

I can’t wait to see what new product development concepts and of course really cool cars come out of this company. As you can imagine the Local Motor’s website is central to its business model, and it is built to keep you interested. Everything from the live shop camera to the design wall to the community and forums are designed to get you thinking, wanting to learn more and maybe even participate. The newest contest launched January 27 and closed February 9 was for a Texas hunting truck described as

a vehicle for Texas that could easily meet the demands of hunters and could adapt depending on the requirements of the different types of game — white tail deer, quail, dove, and javalina to name a few. Essentially, design a base vehicle that could have various modules easily attached to it depending on the needs of the user.

Did you happen to notice how fast this contest is? 2 weeks from launch to close…not bad turnaround time for innovating new ideas. That efficiency is what the collaborative enterprise is all about.

So…what aspects of this model could your company use to improve innovation? What new products or services could be developed in this rapid, community-driven approach? Who among us will jump in and become the next cool car designer? One thing is clear, it will be really fun to watch!



11 Comments

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Curated Stories Feb. 18, 2010
Feb 18, 2010 17:49

[...] Car 2.0 – How a Community Builds a Car Published: February 18, 2010 Source: Wikinomics With the global economy still on shaky ground and the auto industry taking a huge hit, I found it refreshing to find an automotive company thriving, and doing business in a completely new way. Local Motors is a… [...]

Kurt
Feb 20, 2010 1:59

Yawn. Why get excited about people designing an inefficient mode of transportation, especially one that so obviously appeals only to men? Of the 35,000 designs submitted, how many were from women? And how many focused on hybrids or fuel efficient cars rather than stylish? People can collaborate on anything from death camps to solving world hunger. In the end, I’d choose ending world hunger.

Ariel Ferreira
Feb 22, 2010 12:01

Kurt, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Part of Local Motors aim is to build the most fuel efficient vehicles per segment. We are more interested in overall sustainability than green-washing; but truth be told, this bad boy is quite green.

It is clean diesel. It gains 30-36 mpg in a segment that usually scores in the teens – or lower. It is wrapped in vinyl to avoid harmful particulate emissions and waste of paint. It is about 2k lbs lighter than the leading production vehicle in this segment. These are the “green” points.

More importantly, this format of designing, building and servicing cars is sustainable. The lack of agility demonstrated by some large companies has left near ghost towns in the wake of change. This is unsustainable.

Building the cars people want, where they want, when they want – this is more sustainable. Add in the ability to improve, adjust, and implement new technology as it emerges; this is more sustainable still. Add a smokin’ hot design atop a sustainable product, and you have something cravable that people WANT to drive.

I am entirely pleased by this type of conversation. To note, this local manufacturing method will have a huge impact on our use of alternative fuel sources and new powertrain technology. The main barrier to this new technology is the infrastructure to support it. Local Motors is not impeded by the lack of infrastructure on a large scale. To the contrary, we will build electric in San Francisco where electric is supported. We will utilize CNG (compressed natural gas) in Houston, where CNG is supported. We will build hydrogen fuel vehicles for the Hydrogen Highway- and we will not be forced to build out and commit to one technology for the next umpteen years.

Clean diesel makes sense for the desert. Since the Rally Fighter is a desert racer, we, with our community, chose to implement this very efficient and reliable engine.

Laura, thank you for bringing the Rally Fighter & Local Motors concept to light for your readers!

Cheers,

Ariel
aferreira@local-motors.com

Brandon
Feb 22, 2010 12:25

@Kurt, I suppose the 3.0l turbo charged diesel has nothing to do with efficiency then?

Nobody said that style and efficiency cannot coexist

Roland
Mar 6, 2010 18:43

This company brings out models and designs that never get beyond the prototype phase in the big automotive companies. That is because these companies practice “design by committee”. So you get some grey average design.

The thing that got me excited about this company is that they just let one person’s design win. That makes it special. That is exactly the same reason why apple creates such great products. It’s the work of one man not some committee.

This is what I learn for my company. Give a talented designer the lead, create some alternatives and then have the crowd pick the best design.

Roland

Ariel Ferreira
Mar 8, 2010 12:02

Roland,

Our openly shared design process is one of co-creation. While singular designers certainly bring individually created designs to the table, the progress of the design is often dependent on collaboration from the group.

Even if the max input from the community is “I like this, keep it” or “I don’t like this, go back to the older version” the design process is collaborative. But usually what we find is a much more hands-on approach. Our community of designers spend their time to improve the work of their peers – they offer sketch-overs, and specific feedback to make a design go from good to great.

The result of this collaborative process is certainly cravable cars, and also a passionate group of supporters and sometimes buyers. You don’t get this support from a closed creation process.

While Apple’s offerings are excitingly simple and awesome – what do we really know about the design process? It’s private. What do we really know about the designer? The designers aren’t celebrated.

Our process is almost completely different, but we think the outcome can be just as good and in some cases, better.

Cheers!

Ariel
aferreira@local-motors.com

Roland
Mar 8, 2010 16:52

Hello Ariel,

Thank you for your clarification. You have rightfully corrected my view. All I wanted to say that it surprised me that a company like Local-Motors can come up with such great designs. While the big automotive companies always get me excited with their prototypes but fail to deliver that design when it’s time to go to market.

There must be something in your process that you do absolutely right to get such great designs. I know if I would have the courage, I would get one of your models.

best regards
Roland

Car 2.0 – How a community builds a car | MyHub.fr
Mar 21, 2010 3:12

[...] Read more on Wikinomics [...]

Madison
Jul 12, 2010 17:03

I think this is just on more step in the right direction. Step by step we can get to something that is effecient and something people want. I love this, “actual manufacturing is done by the new owner.” The possibilities are great; customization, personalization, effeciency imporvements that can be pumped back into future designs.

Ariel Ferreira
Jul 13, 2010 14:50

Hey, All!

If any of you are in the Phoenix area you should join Local Motors for an Open House on July 31.

Food, drinks, live music & Rally Fighter DEMO!

RSVP here: http://www.pingg.com/rsvp/z28hk4h57z3yja5bm

Thanks for the encouragement & feedback :)

Ariel
aferreira@local-motors.com

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Oct 4, 2010 17:22

[...] [...]

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