To call Local Motors the designers or even the manufacturers of the Rally Fighter is not quite accurate. While the company’s badge will be on the car, it has been a facilitator more than anything else. Local Motors is a new type of car company. It employs just 10 people and plans to expand only to 50 as the Rally Fighter ramps to full production. And while a car traditionally takes about 7 years to go from concept to showroom floor, when the first Rally fighter gets built later this year it will have gone from concept to the road in just over 2 years. How does a small company with limited resources deliver a car this gorgeous in less than one-third the time it takes one of the established brands?
To start, Local Motors opened the car’s design to its community of 2000+ designers. The winning design was submitted by Sangho Kim, a Korean-born design student in Pasadena, CA, and the raw design was then iterated by—and refined with feedback from—the entire community. Kim drove the look of the car, but others members contributed portions of the car’s design. The entire interior, for example, was designed by a different member of the community. By crowdsourcing the design and rapidly iterating with web-based tools, Local Motors was able to compress design cycles from years to months.
The look and feel of a car is important, but it is not what makes the car go. That’s where the 10 Local Motors employees come in—they select off-the-shelf parts for the Rally Fighter, mate them to the Local Motors frame and take care of all tasks that make the car safe to drive. In this case the team selected a BMW clean diesel V8 for its high torque and relative fuel efficiency (36 mpg hwy, 30 mpg off road), making the Rally Fighter a great choice for a clean off road rally car. The employees also make decisions that improve manufacturability and maintain costs. (If the Rally Fighter’s taillights look familiar, it’s because they’re from the Honda Civic.)
So how do they build it? Funny you should ask. They don’t build it; you do. The Local Motors manufacturing model is built around the target audience for the company’s cars: the hobbyists and the tinkerers, people who not only don’t mind helping build the car, but who actually think that’s a selling point. If you’re a gearhead, what better way to get acquainted with the car you’re going to be wrenching on for years than to come help build it from the frame up.
Is Local Motors the next GM? Probably not…and the company doesn’t want to be. But it’s a great example of a niche manufacturer that has a specific market in mind (the gearhead, the hobbyist, the custom car fan) and looks to deliver the best possible product experience to that market. Will Local Motors be successful? I can’t tell you for sure, but I would count myself in the target market, and if the company ever builds the Desmosedici RR2 I’ll probably be first in line to buy one.