In Detail: More on Local Motors

The concept driving Local Motors, the independent car company featured in TRANSLOGIC 60, is at once simple and complex. A quote from the automaker's website sums it up by saying "Local Motors will design, manufacture, and bring to market innovative...lightweight, efficient cars through a revolutionary, local assembly and retail experience." Essentially, that means Local Motors wants to reduce the scale and scope of car making. In this way, they're kind of like the fast-food of automobile manufacturing. They only build the cars that are ordered, and they build and sell those cars through local "micro-factories." The cars, like Burger King Whoppers, are built and sold at the same place--where you can have it your way.

Conversely, a mainstream car maker like GM or Toyota builds hundreds of thousands of cars before the point of sale, then sells those cars to stock local dealers who then, in turn, sell them to the public at a somewhat locally negotiated price. An expensive advertising and marketing mechanism is required to sell the cars that have already been built.

It's really about the economies of scale. Toyota can build a midsize family sedan packed with all kinds of amenities for about $24,000 because they make about 400,000 of those cars in a given year. Local Motors simply can't do that. Because the scale is much smaller, they have to charge more for a car that (in theory) does less; however, the advantage is that a Local Motors car, like the Rally Fighter, can be highly customized during the build process.

If you want to customize a Toyota Corolla or Chevrolet Cruze beyond the trim levels offered by the manufacturer, you're stuck adding aftermarket accessories because building truly customized or individual vehicles is just too expensive.

It would be easy to dismiss Local Motors until you get a look at the Rally Fighter. It looks like nothing else on the road and has the kind of swagger Hummer H2 owners can only dream of. But Local Motors has to be more than a one trick pony to last. The list of startup automakers that built one model then folded is long (think DeLorean Motor Company).

Thankfully, Local Motor seems to be gaining momentum thanks to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA recently asked for idea submissions for a small, light military vehicle and, rather than going through the usual behemoth defense contractors, small business and universities were asked to submit concepts for what DARPA calls the XC2V. The public was allowed to vote and the Local Motors FlypMode was chosen as the winner.

Local Motors was given 14 weeks to build a working XC2V prototype and they actually finished ahead of schedule. Check out this post for more info on the Local Motors FlypMode military vehicle, including a video of President Obama's response.

As cool as the Rally Fighter is, it may ultimately be insignificant. What's bound to have a much greater impact, especially if it's successful, is the idea that cars can be built to order and that they are built by and for the local community.

Click the image below to watch TRANSLOGIC 60: Local Motors Rally Fighter:

The video meant to be presented here is no longer available. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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