I just listened to a TWiST interview with John “Jay” Rogers, President and CEO of Local Motors, a Southern California company that has set up a platform for a vibrant community of car enthusiasts to share and vote on each other’s car designs. There first car, the Rally Fighter, is coming off the line and already has waiting list of back-orders. Several highlights from the interview:

– Local Motors taps into a passionate audience, “Everyone thinks they are right when it comes to cars.” It’s easy to spin up a passionate thread about a new design. The value-add of the Local Motors company is that they vet the designs and pick and chose which ones to incorporate “Not a crowd-designed car, it’s a car who’s design came from the crowd.” After a year, they have over 70,000 Creative Commons licensed designs.

– Jay paraphrases Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, described the automobile industry as a glass full of rocks. The large auto companies are the rocks and Local Motors is a niche car company that acts as sand between the rocks. There is room for a company, that is building specialty cars on spec, to be profitable with small production runs.

– Jay is good friends with the founders of Threadless (a crowd-sourced t-shirt company) and his company is built on the same model. Many of the designers in the Local Motors community come from the automotive industry which only productizes a handful of designs each year. Imagine Local Motors as a company that sifts through the best of the rest to come up with winning designs that may not meet the large scale appeal of a Ford or Toyota but still be something “game-changing.” They also provide budding transportation design students a platform to showcase their portfolio.

– Local Motors’ mission statement, We will create game-changing cars with an unprecedented level of customer service. What this means in practice is that the process of delivery and manufacturing is transparent and hands on. You not only put together your custom order, you are also asked to come to the factory and actually build your car. All designs, down to the CAD drawings and build instructions are online for review and customization.

– The US Department of Transportation allows you to drive cars that you build yourself (and register as a “Specialty Constructed Vehicle”) which is why, included in the $60k cost of delivery of their first car, the  is two long weekends at the “micro-factory” learning how to build your car and putting it together with the Local Motors team. You not only get a car, you learn, from the inside out, how your car is put together.

Local Motors Build Experience

– The Local Motors model is working so well, that they have branched out. Reebok commissioned the community to design a shoe (winning design below). During the interview, Jay mentioned that they are thinking of opening up the community to other things that need to be designed and built.

Reebok Rally Fighter

Related Info:

In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits – Wired.com
Quirky: A Crowd-Sourced Way to Produce Your Designs –  article in Fast Company about another crowd-sourcing industrial design community