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. Local Motors cars are made five times faster with 100 times less capital than the mass manufacturing model.

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

3. Springwise:

"Open source is by now a proven model for software design—could car design go the same way? Massachusetts enterprise Local Motors has set the wheels in motion. By crowdsourcing designs from a unique global community of designers, and manufacturing to order in regional micro-factories, Local Motors represents a paradigm shift from industry-standard mass production.

The Local Motors online community was launched in March 2008 and now has a membership of 4,000 car designers, engineers and enthusiasts. When Local Motors announces a design competition (for either a car body, or a particular feature), designers submit their work to the community, which then discusses and votes on the designs. Each competition specifies where the winning design will potentially be built, and submissions should be inspired by the target location—e.g. “an electric vehicle with a San Francisco soul”. Local Motors picks a winner for the competition, whose design is then further developed by the community before being finalised for production by the Local Motors team.

The first crowd-designed car—the Rally Fighter—is already available, with production limited to 2,000 units (41 already sold). A price of around USD 50,000 adds to the exclusivity, but customers are not just buying a car: realising the high value today’s consumers place on unique experience and status stories, Local Motors invites every buyer to help build their own vehicle over two weekends. Owners can even host their own competition on the website for a custom “skin” design for their vehicle.

Local Motors shows why crowdsourcing is such a powerful model: it’s effectively free outsourcing that creates products the market wants, and fosters an intimate relationship between consumers and brands. Which other industries are lacking a crowd-driven business?" (http://www.springwise.com/style_design/localmotors/)


"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.""


Alan Moore:

"Companies can change the shape, capability and performance of the organisation by rethinking and redesigning all its core processes in the instance of Local Motors; its factories (the Local Motors factory was rated by Jalopnik in the top ten of most impressive car factories in the world), R&D, sales and marketing and final production – this is whole systems design, that represents an industrial ecology, not a series of boxes & silos. Moreover it is much less costly to set up, run and maintain—it also enables the company to invest its energies into high quality design and production.

It demonstrates that better much better does not necessarily have to cost the earth.

Local Motors runs competitions to innovate, in one year for its first vehicle competition; 44,000 designs were submitted to Local Motors, and 3600 innovators have shared their knowledge and insights, no one company can hire that many people. Through its open participatory platform now called ‘The Forge’, Local Motors has collaborated in automotive innovation with DARPA the US Military research agency co-designing and building a fully functional prototype of a Combat Support Vehicle in three and a half months. Normally such a process would take years. As the owner John ‘Jay’ Burton Rogers said to me, ‘you can’t be nimble if you tool big’.

Whilst even large car manufacturers have turned to Local Motors, such as BMW running an urban driving experience challenge. So Local Motors becomes more than just a car manufacturing company its an automotive innovation platform." (http://www.no-straight-lines.com/blog/the-radical-re-design-of-business/)

Why is Open Innovation appropriate for the automobile industry?

Stay Davis:

"This industry is not for everyone. But Jay Rogers thinks it is. Four years ago, he founded Local Motors to make open-source cars. The company developed an online platform for crowd sourced car design and developed a unique micro-factory for rapid local manufacturing. This may be what the automotive industry needs right now: someone to take the big guys head-on. “Automotive is a really hard industry, but we are not taking on the car industry as a whole. Rather, we are taking on the problems with car manufacturing. There are so many technologies for cars, but they are not making their way to production and testing quickly enough to be integrated in actual cars. It’s that pace of technology development that seemed to be out of step with the rest of the technological world, specifically in regards to internet technology or various forms of electronics – they seem to move a lot faster. From a point of view of making a difference in the world, cars have a huge impact, together with pharmaceuticals and energy solutions.”

Rogers believes that this model of open innovation is not appropriate for every field, but it can be applied to any field that scores high on two scales: number of users and number of creators. This simple paradigm makes sense, and when you think about it, it suddenly poses opportunities in other apparently obese industries. According to the Rogers doctrine, if you add the impact criterion to the equation, as an indicator of collective desire to co-create, you will find that cars are a prime target for open-innovation because they are high on all three scales. Drugs score low on the number of creators. Clothes are somewhere in the middle, because of a medium score on the impact scale. “It is possible to crowd-source a cereal or a donut for example, but they are much further down the list because those are areas where people are looking to be surprised by the new flavors. So it’s not enough just to have many people able to do this and many people interested in the product – it has to have a large, real impact on the user’s life, in order to be eligible for crowd sourcing. I think architecture, furniture and drug development are other good candidates.” (http://miter.mit.edu/article/open-source-cars-are-here-lessons-learnt-local-motors%E2%80%99-take-open-hardware-revolution)

What Local Motors does for the community?

Stay Davis:

The hitch with crowd-sourcing is that nobody wants to do the uninteresting dirty work. That’s where Local Motors comes in. They fight, on behalf of their open-source community, regulations which add bureaucracy to the design process and write standards which open up design further. Mr. Rogers says, “There is no such thing as un-moderated open sourcing. Standard-writing is a critical part of the process and regulation is a very real part of the car industry. It is not fun and our company has taken on some of these tasks on behalf of our community.” For example, Local Motors took a big piece of regulation from the Air Resources Board to court and won unanimously. The regulation required separate certifications per car model for the same engine design, making innovation more costly. Local Motors argued that certifying a power-train only once, would significantly promote faster and cheaper innovation that would loosen the strangle on developers of new vehicles for different purposes. This case illustrates the importance of a centralized moderator for open-sourcing, and Local Motors became a defender of its open community. In a sense, Local Motors are the parents of a genius and like a good parent, they remove obstacles for the community’s talent to break through." (http://miter.mit.edu/article/open-source-cars-are-here-lessons-learnt-local-motors%E2%80%99-take-open-hardware-revolution)

Local Motors's Micromanufacturing Plants

Stay Davis:

"To manufacture cars locally and save on expensive shipping fees, Local Motors designed a micro-manufacturing plant, implementable globally. The first micro manufacturing site is in Arizona. Customers come for a few days to build their own car with the assistance of Local Motors trained staff. No mechanical or engineering skills are required. The customer list includes regular people: city slickers, rugged countrymen, families, men and women of all professions. The customer is fully involved in the assembly of the car – from frame alignments and engine calibration to break system and dashboard placement. A panel at the TechCrunch Disrupt 2011 conference dubbed this kind of process “The Rise of Profitable Open Source Hardware,” but this concept of having the customer emotionally involved in the creation of the car is not only economical for Local Motors. It is part of a recent trend of shifting the power balance from traditional manufacturers, who used to exist in a secret mystical world of knowledge, to the end customer, who is recently figuring out the benefits and accessibility of hands-on production. “Our vision is for everyone to be able to build these models everywhere, but in the short run, the best solution is this micro factory we developed, which is operated like a local agency in different areas by people who are interested in being a nexus of local manufacturing.” The micro-factory requires relatively low capital investment (~$200,000) and is light on tools: mostly assembly tools, no production tools. They have some rapid prototyping tools, such as laser cutters and 3D printers, but only the kind that can be used for a wide spectrum of vehicle building options. Such a factory can never reach the production volumes of a billion-dollar plant, but will serve a small area. Currently, the plant in Arizona serves about 200 vehicles a year and more plants are being planned. The idea is that no government backed funding or large scale financing will be needed to set up a production micro-factory. “We have had 35 requests from community members and industrialists for setting up local micro-factories, from places like Singapore and South-Africa, Nigeria, Dubai, Poland, Germany, Russia, Austin, New-York, and we are now evaluating them. They can just take what we’ve done and do it again, but it does help to be in touch with the community that we have created online because you might need our support in the design and initial development before the actual production stage.” http://miter.mit.edu/article/open-source-cars-are-here-lessons-learnt-local-motors%E2%80%99-take-open-hardware-revolution


Stay Davis:

"Hold your horsepower. Open-sourcing a car is not the same as open-sourcing a web browser. Can an open-sourced jalopy survive against the lean mean driving machines of Detroit, Germany and Japan? Local Motors’ showstopper, the Rally Fighter, argues that it can. It is a sleek all-terrain vehicle with (arguably) stunning design and extreme durability. It looks like it could eat a Jeep Grand Cherokee for breakfast and belch up a Hummer H3. The Rally Fighter originated from a web design tournament and was chosen as the first design for production. It is now available for purchase for $74,900. There are 25 of these already on the roads and 140 deposits have been put down for future orders. This design made it through not only because of its popularity within the open community, but because it was identified as buildable yet unique. “We wanted something different that could also come to market. We actually wanted something that would be polarizing. Something that would be really liked by one group of people and maybe not so liked by another group,” says Mr. Rogers.

The Rally Fighter is a large vehicle, the size of a SUV, but has the weight of a small sedan. Its base measures 116 inches by 83 inches of track width and it weighs 3200 lbs. Specs for the Rally Fighter are: 6.2 liter, V8 engine and 430 horsepower (at 5900 rpm), 424 lbft (at 4600 rpm). The final version of the Rally Fighter uses composite panels for the doors, body and inner shells. There is no paint on the Rally Fighter, though you may customize it with your own design of vinyl skins. “We wanted desert drivers to absolutely love it, whereas North-Easterners will probably find it inappropriate, but we will get to them soon, with our next models. We want to get this first model to be seen throughout the Southwest and make people realize that a true difference has been made,” says Mr. Rogers. Though a few Rally Fighters have been sold in Boston and Russia, the marketing direction is clear for the Rally Fighter: Crocodile Dundie’s vehicle of choice. All designs and CAD drawings are available online at: http://www.rallyfighter.com/open.php

It took the Rally Fighter 18 months to go from initial concept to production. Traditional manufacturers need three to five years, for a standard car to make it through this full cycle. Local Motors plans to further reduce this time to 12 months for its next models, but needs the cooperation and feedback of consumers to achieve this. Mr. Rogers argues that in order to get through the whole battery of tests within the impossible timeframe of 12 months, their customers are going to be involved in development.,Local Motors is asking future customers for their opinion during every stage of the development through a wiki. Customers continue to develop the vehicle after they take it away. Of course, all the basic safety tests are done before the model is released, making the Rally Fighter officially street legal. But the open-source model allows for rapid development to a stage that is “good enough to get to customers.” Great customer ideas are incorporated in the next production vehicles. It’s all about communication between the different parts of the community." (http://miter.mit.edu/article/open-source-cars-are-here-lessons-learnt-local-motors%E2%80%99-take-open-hardware-revolution)

Crowdsourced Design Methodologies

Open Competitions


"Another part of Local Motors' business plan lies in holding open competitions among its community to design particular parts or products. The DARPA vehicle, for instance, came about as a result of a challenge to create a new process for the development of future military vehicles. The first step in this new process is to test the co-creation of a Militarily Relevant vehicle through a unique Experimental Crowd-derived Combat-support Vehicle (XC2V) Design Challenge. The winning design from this challenge was then rapidly developed and transformed into an operational prototype that was shown around the United States as a proof of concept. The stakes are high: In addition to being able to have the winning design turned into a functioning concept vehicle, the winner received a $7,500 cash prize." (http://www.eurekamagazine.co.uk/article/40994/Crowdsourcing-design-model-is-moving-forward-fast.aspx)


"Another such challenge was Local Motors' 'Open Wheel Challenge', which requires entrants to model in 3D the most innovative wheel rim designs they could think of. These are then uploaded in IGES, STEP, or STL. At the end of each month, the five designs that have been 'liked' most are 3D printed in miniature and sent it to the authors. Ultimately, though, the idea is to create a resource to help the community to design other projects – pulling from the entries already made." (http://www.eurekamagazine.co.uk/article/40994/Crowdsourcing-design-model-is-moving-forward-fast.aspx)

Local Forge CAD system

"One of the most recently-launched aspects of Local Motors is what is known as 'Local Forge'. Launched in November last year, this is the new face of the Local Motors community. This is designed to bring together the key elements of design, engineering and fabrication more effectively.

Damien Declercq, Local Motors' director of new business development, believes that this business model will change the face of engineering design, saying: "It has the potential to be completely disruptive for the whole mobility and transport industry."

A major step towards this for the project took place when Local Motors announced a partnership with Siemens PLM whereby it would adopt Solid Edge software as the computer-aided design (CAD) tool for its recently launched Open Electric Vehicle project and is recommending the software to its entire product design community - available for less than $20 per month.

"It was crucial for Local Motors and the level of interaction that all of our community has not access to professional level CAD software. In order to take LM to the next step, the community needed a design tool that capable of designing and assembling an automobile. The partnership with Siemens has given us that," says Declercq.

Siemens has developed two new products, and is making them available through Local-Motors. The first is a browser-based version of its JT viewer. JT is the most widely used lightweight 3D file format in the automotive industry. With this viewer, a community member can view, section, and measure 3D models from directly within the Local Motors website.

The second is a special version of Solid Edge, called Design1. Solid Edge has traditionally been a feature-based parametric solid modeling CAD system. Several years ago, Siemens added direct modeling to Solid Edge, in the form of Synchronous Technology. The new Solid Edge Design1 product is a Synchronous Technology only version with no feature-based parametric modeling tools. Even so, however, Declercq believes the ability for Local Motors' members to be on the same page as far as software is concerned has the potential to revolutionise its activities." (http://www.eurekamagazine.co.uk/article/40994/Crowdsourcing-design-model-is-moving-forward-fast.aspx)

More Information

  1. video history of the project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSuCMae2uyg&feature=player_embedded
  2. a video that shows "how it works" here: http://www.local-motors.com/howItWorks.php.
  3. The designs are open sourced under a CC BY-NC-ND license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
  4. which isn't actually very open); for example on the tech specs page http://www.local-motors.com/rallyFighter.php?p=techSpecs
  5. you can download the chassis design http://www.local-motors.com/assets/rallyFighterChassis091009.IGS
  6. there is an active community of auto designers who "compete" to design future production models, http://www.local-motors.com/forum.php