Business - Written by Laura M. Carrillo on Thursday, February 18, 2010 9:55 - 11 Comments
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.
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!
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