Thursday, January 31, 2008

The 3 Why's

Sometimes it is nice to be reminded why were are all so busy at Local Motors.

I like to think of the reasons as the "3 Why's":

Why the automobile market?
Today, transportation as a sector, represented a growing 70% of US oil consumption.
• The fuel used in cars and light trucks represents 40% of this consumption.
• Local Motors is targeted precisely at this environmental problem

Our innovation: If you plot on a graph of value versus time, in this left curve you see the current paradigm. Current automakers are spending a lot of time and money pouring billions of dollars into propulsion-based research, such as fuel cells, and according to their own projections, new systems are still a decade away from mass introduction. We propose to make the leap to a new efficient frontier through the innovative use of lightweight, composite-reinforced materials.

The new materials allow for both: 1) substantially improved fuel efficiency and 2) manufacturability at low volumes in distributed locations physically close to the customer. Once we achieve this manufacturing innovation we will then be in a position to adopt the newest technologies in propulsion as a fast follower.

Why for our customer? Car lovers of all ages, skill-levels, and economic status are looking for a car experience that is worthy of their $50K investment. They:
• want to be treated to an entertainment experience where they watch their car being built.
• want something that other people truly don’t have.
• want a product and a company that stands for environmental efficiency and a reduced dependence on fossil fuels.
• want to call the same person who sold them their car when they have any issues, compliments or suggestions.
• do not want to fool with “service”. They want the car picked up and returned to their house.
• want a market leading American car brand worthy of the respect of Apple, Deere, PACCAR, Harley Davidson.

Why for designers? Around the world, there are thousands of industrial designers, some self-employed as freelance workers and others engaged in various product design functions for corporations (The Supply). Though vehicle and transportation design occupies a large percentage of this groups’ collective work, there are only a paltry number of dedicated transportation design positions available due to the relatively slow creation cycle of new automobiles by the existing automakers (The Demand). This Supply and Demand mismatch has created a pent-up well of talented folks for which Local Motors hopes to give palette on which to paint and a stage on which to be appreciated.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One Step Closer to a New Design Force

A revolution in the opportunity for automotive designers around the world is one step closer tonight.

The Local Motors Web Development team is working feverishly to bring to market the cornerstone of our community effort - the first, open-source, community for regular and consistent car body design competition. This web community will enable sharing of ideas, learning, personal improvement, competition, and - most of all - the creation of unbelievable car designs which Local Motors will build and bring to market.

This community will provide a portal and a gathering place for designers and enthusiasts, and that part of the experience is only the beginning.

So keep your eyes tuned for our beta launch in the future, I believe that you, like I, will applaud the efforts of a few car nuts with mad web development skills!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

GM new approach to branding - or not

Recently Automotive News covered a proposed plan by GM to encourage the creation of superstores in major metro areas that would carry groups of GM brands under one roof.

The idea, which could only be encouraged - but not mandated - since franchisees would actually have to buy in, would be to create 4 consolidated dealer channels to market at current metro dealer sites and to move existing service operations outside of town to make room.

The channels would be as such:

1. Chevrolet

2. Buick-Pontiac-GMC

3. Saturn

4. Cadillac-Hummer-Saab.

This announcement was rumored to be planned for the annual NADA convention in San Francisco in February, but no sooner was the plan leaked than it was retracted. As the website The Truth About Cars reported,

"[Mark LaNeve, GM's VP of Vehicle Sales, Service, and Marketing] sent a polite message to dealers (and Automotive News) stating "there will be no announcements of any kind regarding any new initiative or change to our channel strategy." In classic GM what-you-thought-you-heard-wasn't-what-I-should-have-said style, LaNeve claimed that the Automotive News story "gave the impression of a major policy announcement of shift in strategy."

The curious thing about this entire move is that GM would be making such bold announcements before its suppliers had bought in to the plan. It looked as if GM had either 1) forgotten that it did not own the channel to market, or 2) tried to play a Jedi Mind Trick on its dealers. Can't you hear Rick "Obi-Wan" Wagoner saying, "These are not the dealerships you are looking for."

This frustrating and embarrassing impasse for GM is just one of many examples of its entrenched difficulties in improving its channel to market. Basically GM suffers from brand erosion due, in part, to a scattered, piece-meal dealership structure. Get this: Where Toyota has 1,200 dealerships, GM has over 14,000, and yet Toyota outsold GM in 2007!!

Perhaps consolidation is the medicine needed to fix eroding sales, perhaps not?
Perhaps GM could convince its franchisees to agree with that position, perhaps not?
Perhaps there is some other plan that GM can pull out of a hat to stem declining market share, or maybe the negative brand equity is too powerful?

I don't know if anyone knows the answer to any of these questions. I, for one, would not like to be the one responsible for answering them.

Monday, January 28, 2008

8' 8" - Smart hits the US Market

That is correct. The much anticipated sales opening of the Smart Car (a partnership between Mercedes and Swatch) begins this month at US dealerships according to many major news networks.

This small car which has been available in Europe for 10 years is bound to find a dedicated following in the US. With a standard gasoline engine, it will achieve fuel economy levels of 30-40mpg.

Safety will be marginal compared to cars of a larger size, but many Americans don't care, especially since it is made (in part) by Daimler.

More motion, more change, more good things going on in the US market for cars.

Bravo Smart for what looks to be a strong entry into the US market...and Bravo to Penske Auto Group for being the distributor to bring it to our market.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Close but so far at the BMW Welt

In 1991, a friend and I traveled to Europe and - with a rail pass - visited the manufacturing plants of most of the major European automakers. This was a trip that we had anticipated for a long time. When I first saw the famous "4-cylinder" BMW HQ, I felt that I had seen a shrine to car lovers, it was amazing, but at the museum I could not help but feel that I was missing something - we were only getting to see half the process... just the end of the line.

It was not until we made it to the factory that we saw the true shrine. I could have spent all day watching BMW's be born, but we had to go on to Porsche's facility.

I could not have known at the time, 17 years ago, that that same emotion would be brought back today on a much more massive scale.



On October 17, 2007, BMW opened a landmark delivery facility in Munich, the BMW Welt (trans. "World"). At the Welt, which is right on the Oberwiesenfeld in Milbertshofen (i.e. at the Group Headquarters), a customer is treated to a visual feast as they take delivery of their BMW. This is the 4-Cylinder HQ times 10! The budget must have been unlimited, and the building is breathtaking. It is certainly the Ultimate Consumer Experience, it the Ultimate Driving Experience?

The New York Time Architecture Review sums up the experience well:

"Its cavernous main hall is packed with restaurants, a cafe and a shop hawking BMW merchandise. Clients arriving at the main showroom to pick up their new cars are handed frothy cappuccinos and led into a small booth where they can try out the car’s special driving features by computer simulation.

They then proceed down a grand staircase to a platform lined with BMW cars. As they approach the bottom of the staircase, spotlights light up underneath their car, which begins to rotate on a platform. A young woman sprints over to snap a picture."


The issue with this $275 million "shrine" is the same that I felt with the museum back in 1991 - it leaves me feeling like I am seeing only a small part of the process. While a separate factory tour is part of the package when you travel to the Welt, I cannot help but wonder why they are not one in the same. For example, in 2005, the Zaha Hadid BMW factory in Leipzig was completed and it was the real deal (for $65 million). Here a customer could be treated to a real visual feast. If I were going to pick up my car, I would much prefer to do it from here.

If the cappuccinos at the delivery were not bad enough, to make matters worse, on the Welt website, the company advertises how the process unfolds for the customer, and it is a visual feast .... (get ready).... of the customer sitting down with a dealer to negotiate an order. You almost have to shield your eyes.

If this isn't the exact opposite of the Ultimate Driving Experience, then Ferrari is a minivan maker.

I have been a BMW devotee (and owner) for a long time, but to me, the Welt is a $275 million excess.

P.S. The friend that traveled with me to see the European car factories in 1991, is now on the Board of Local Motors!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Introducing (DRUM ROLL!!!!)

Loyal readers of the Founders Blog,

It is now time for us to share the limelight.

Permit me to introduce the Vehicle Engineer Blog Line for Local Motors.

Authored by our very own Mike Pisani, this line is a poignant and direct commentary on the things that make our vehicle make sense.

Mike, a native of South Boston, comes easily to the blogging world and is looking forward to his readership base expanding rapidly and to following him as he develops through this journey with Local Motors. Give 'im an Ooo-Rah and a Welcome.

He can be found through a Vehicle Engineering Blog link on our Home Page ( or directly at

Welcome Mike. You have our attention.

Tis the season

Well April must have been the romantic time of the year for most of the Local Motorheads' parents, because January (9 months after) holds a number of birthdays for our team.

In this week alone, we will have celebrated 3 birthdays. Congratulations Tim, Karen, and Mike! AND Dave's is just around the corner.
This is what Tim looked like when we surprised him with a cake today. Happy Man!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tool Time Cont'd - Musings on Scientific Management and Frederick W. Taylor

I was reading a report on the study of mass production and the beginnings of scientific management (Nothing like a little reading excitement), and it was a careful recount of the development of Frederick Taylor's methods.

For the uninitiated, Taylor designed a differential piece-rate work system, and hypothesized that machinery alone does not do much to improve productivity beyond a fairly linear relationship of effort (time) to results (product). In order for this relationship really to improve, total factor productivity must be improved.

For its day, this was a thunderous achievement in theory and practice. It was the theory which upheld much of modern day steel-making profits, and of course, the creation of the Ford manufacturing empire.

Nonetheless, these theories somehow left the customer floating in a see of uniformity, for though the products that benefited from mass production improved cost, they did so largely at the expense of customization.

For example, in the production of the Ford Model T, the goal was uniformity and affordability of purchase and service. Since the Model T was competing against relative non-consumption (i.e. there were not that many cars on the road), mere affordability of purchase and service was a suitable standard of customer satisfaction.

Fast forward to today and I am not sure but what Taylor's teachings might fall on deaf ears of customers looking for an experience and a unique product.

It is precisely for this reason that we have purchased hand tools which celebrate maximum human involvement and flexibility in design. This choice is a deliberate result of picking an organization size and makeup that matches with the volume and style requirements of the times. Because of this fact, I am quite certain that Local Motors would have had difficulty in the late 1800s just like there are many cracks in the foundation of the old Automotive Manufacturers today.

Keeping it Real

Often times people ask us about our mission, "Building a car !@#$%* Isn't that impossible in America today?"

Answering that question is a double edged sword, because if we say "Yes", then the natural follow-on is "What on earth are you thinking?!" And if we say "No", then we are somehow arrogant or naive.

I think perhaps the best answer is delivered by placing our mission in context.

And perhaps there is no better context than the National Holiday we are about to celebrate - Martin Luther King day.

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King was born in 1929, and at the age of 26 he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This struggle took a year's time and was launched in the face of the city's official policy of racial segregation on the public transport system. In one year, this Boycott had made a legend of Rosa Parks and ended in a Supreme Court decision that declared the Alabama and Montgomery Laws unconstitutional.

Then at the age of 34, King participated in the March on Washington during which he delivered his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech.

And at age 35, he became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to put an end to segregation in a non-violent manner in a country of great hostility to that notion.

So with this in mind, I hope that all who would doubt the believability of our mission will put into perspective the relative importance of our task. Our collective task to build a new car company is meaningful and large, no doubt, and we are all young. Nonetheless, King was younger than all of our team is now when he lead the Bus Boycott.

Age and fame are not critical ingredients to achieving one's vision, and we try to remember that if nothing else from the life of King.

So as we enjoy the day and reflect on what we are about, we are at once touched by what such a great man achieved and how comparatively manageable our task ahead is.

34 years old

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tool Time

Well, it is the time that all car builders dream about.....

Time to buy some tools.

Not the big $1 million dollar dies and stamping tools. No, these are the ones you really care about, the hand tools.

This is one step where we differentiate ourselves from the major players.

You say factory, we say shop.
You say small, we say personal.
You say MSRP, we say price.
You say cut a deal with a dealership, we say bond with a customer.
You say show a customer around the lot, we say teach him how to build a car.
You say exciting, we say beyond your wildest boyhood dreams.
And say robots, we say man with a hand tool.

Well today we placed an order for some hand tools and it felt like a right of passage.

We will say more about total factor productivity, laminar flow, piece rate, and flexibility later, but now it is time to pay a little homage to the patron saint of garage tools.....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Build School - Where the magic is born!

This past weekend I spent 3 days at a Technical College in Central Michigan completing a car building school with about 15 other folks. Perhaps you may not have known that there are such courses, but for 15 lucky folks this was pure magic.

Pretty Simple.

Here is where we started on Friday:

.....and here is where we ended on Sunday afternoon:

The cliché might say, "a picture is worth 1000 words" and in this case, it is. The only difference is that this experience was anything but clichéd...It was unique and thrilling. I would go back and do this every weekend for an entire year if I could learn as much as I did in 3 days.

One of our investors came with me to do this, and we could not stop talking about the applications to Local Motors assembly. Thank you to him, thank you to the school, and most of all, thank you to my classmates.

Investor Sentiment Ch 2 - Dealing with the Status Quo

In the process of raising funding for Local Motors, we have met with all kinds of investors and received all variations of feedback. Like any venture prospect, we are met with a raft of questions of a similar sort:
1) What is different about your business?
2) How will you sell a car that can compete with Lexus, BMW, Honda, Cadillac, etc?
3) Isn't the US the absolute worst place to start a car company...shouldn't you be in India, China, or Bangladesh?
4) If your idea is so good, then why hasn't it been done already?
5) Who do you think you are? Henry Ford?
6) People like to buy cars on impulse, that is why dealerships keep so many in stock. If you don't have cars in stock, you won't attract most customers, will you?
7) Doesn't this require a HUGE amount of up front capital?

These are all good questions that we are prepared to answer...well, all except #5, because no one could ever be like Henry Ford...and not all our cars are going to be black!

Nonetheless, when we answer these questions with the findings of a plan based on several years of research and planning, we are still destined only to convince a select group of investors who are willing to back our idea. I would say that I am generally content with this distribution of believers and non-believers, but every so often I just get so fired up about someone not "seeing" our plan, that I cannot stand by without at least a mini-rant.... and this is one of those times.

Let me give you some exact quotes from recent anonymous potential investors that reacted negatively to our plan:

"I've got to say that I'm a bit skeptical that this industry can be changed by a start-up. There's just way too much complexity, scale-economy, and infrastructure inertia involved. In fact, I've been trying to figure out for my entire career how I could get involved in a lucrative venture in the automotive industry.....And, given the inertia and resistance-to-change that I've witnessed thus far (by the American car companies as well as Japanese), I can see why VC's have been hesitant to invest in the industry to date. [Local Motors ideas] are all great ideas and, I believe, most will be implemented eventually. But, I think it's going to take huge amounts of capital and a much longer timeframe ..."

"Unsolicited advice: I would not claim "firsts" for your company until it is running: I have been involved with 5 "disruptive" car company plans and financing groups quickly become weary of such claims. Disruptive concepts are easy to come up with in this industry: to actually make cars is harder...."

"Making cars is a business for big boys and it is not easy, I am not optimistic that a start-up such as yourself has any real chance of making it to market."

......and the list goes on.

While there are specific responses to each of these critical comments, I prefer to fight fire with fire by asking an even simpler raft of questions. "If this is such a good current industry setup...."

1) Then why did GM post the 2nd largest EVER quarterly loss in history of 39BN in 3Q07?
2) Why did Ford post a 13BN loss in 2006?
3) Why do customers trust the quality of Japanese and German cars more than American?
4) Why did Cerberus just buy Chrysler?
5) Why is auto union membership at the lowest level in decades?
6) Why do customers almost universally not trust dealerships for good service value?
7) Why does Factory Five have 7,000 cars on the road and over 100MM of sales in 12 years?
8) How did Home Depot make it into business?
9) How could Starbucks charge $5 for a cup of coffee?
10) How could Eastman Kodak have ever been challenged?

.........and the list, also, goes on.

OK, just a little rant, and I probably shouldn't care so much to convince people that are immovable, but I just cannot resist trying. I guess that is why I was crazy enough to see this idea through.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Investor Sentiment Ch 1 - Some rapid change in the winds of startup automotive

So do you want the good news or the bad first?

Let's start with the bad:

This in from the daily rag,
"Good Morning Silicon Valley"
Article Launched: 01/11/2008 01:33:21 PM PST

"Latest Tesla spin leaves a trail of bodies
That's not oil on the floor of the Tesla garage -- it's blood. This week, with an understandable lack of fanfare, the ambitious electric car company has been dropping employees behind it like pieces of a blown transmission -- about two dozen so far, including three senior executives. According to those in charge, it's all about performance, or the lack thereof. The company is already a year behind in its plan to put a $100,000, zero-emission roadster on the street, and buyers on the waiting list have been told the first production models will come with an "interim" transmission that will get you from zero to 60 in 5.7 seconds instead of the originally touted sub-4 seconds....."

Sadly it is true, what started with the ouster of the founder and CEO, Martin Eberhard, a couple of months ago, has continued and spread to a cleaning house throughout the rest of the Company. I knew several of these people and am quite sad to see this change in the state of affairs. On the other hand, for the sake of our automotive industry and its transformation, it is critical that Tesla (and others) succeed; therefore, if trimming size of its workforce is part of an eventual path to success, then I would say that it is the necessary and better of two evils.

And now for the good news:

Electric-Car Firms
Get Star Investors
January 14, 2008; Page A2

"DETROIT -- The race to develop an electric car is heating up and drawing increasing interest from the same venture-capital investors who helped build Silicon Valley.

The latest entrant is expected to be announced today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit when Fisker Automotive Inc. unveils an $80,000 battery-powered luxury car it aims to begin delivering in late 2009. The Fisker Karma, a so-called plug-in hybrid, can go 50 miles on electricity before a small gasoline engine kicks in to generate electricity to charge a lithium-ion battery pack on board. The company has backing from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, perhaps Silicon Valley's best-known venture-capital firm and a backer of household tech names such as Netscape Communications, Inc. and Google Inc."

So unlike the Tesla news of late, Fisker's announcement is all roses...and perhaps in reality it is. In actuality, the announcement is really a joint venture of Fisker Coachbuilding and Quantum Technologies. While it is also a bold vision for a product, I have to question how Fisker is planning to sell and service the product. Perhaps the company can brush away such practical questions in favor of the small volume, but then I question whether such a company is game changing or landmark. Whatever the answer to this "nitty" question :) This is a good day for Fisker/Quantum and also a good day for all of us in the startup position in the automotive world.

The winds are blowing hard so we at Local Motors are battening down the hatches and trimming for the fastest point of sail!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Intellectual Property Sharing

After yesterday's post, a question came in in one of the comments as to whether a designer would maintain copyright on a sketch which he/she submitted. Great question. I was going to respond in another comment, but I thought that that response would get buried, when this subject actually deserved front-row-seat attention by our community.
So here's the way we see it:

If you win a sketch competition, the company will pay you and in turn it will receive a non-exclusive license to market and to utilize the design.

If you win a final competition, the company will pay you and in turn it will receive an exclusive license to market and to utilize the design.

Stand by for refinements and yes, Great Question!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Exploration of Car Design - Chapter 4 - Design Creation (Continued)

(What you read in this post is a working draft of our newest plans... Give us your feedback and check back for updates and refinements)

As I disclosed in Chapter 1 of this series. We are running an open source competition for the body design of each of our Local Motors’ models. In contrast to projects such as OSCAR or other more complex open source projects like the MIT Vehicle Design Summit VDS 2.0, this is pure exterior design excitement. If you trust us to deliver the perfect chassis and performance experience, then we will trust you to deliver the packaging. Deal?

No dealerships.

No big-company speak.

No holds barred.

Just you, us, and our future vehicle.

If you can dream it and win it, then Local Motors will make it, we all can buy it and fall in love with US wheels all over again.

We know that this designing may sound tough at first. But we have a number of thoughts and props to ease you, our designer team, into the process.

- The Inspiration - We will give you a good start with the basic specs and inspiration for the first platform.
*In what Town and State the vehicle will be launched. This is critical as Local Motors is all about designing a product for each geographic location. Each design should be liberally infused with inspiration from the local geography, economy, topography, climate, fashion, sensibility, politics, etc.
*Functional description of capabilities (the good stuff – how far, how fast, how lean, how strong)
*Wheel base
*Track width
*Engine Placement and Discplacement (i.e. where and how big)
*Max passenger capacity (plan for the family)
*Some cool stuff that has inspired us to launch this first product (colors, music, pictures, and yes…even other vehicle designs)

- Easy entry - Just sketch it! In the end you will have to deliver the Computer Aided Design file (CAD to you trans jocks), but let’s keep it to the raw inspiration at first. We will give you two weeks in each competition to deliver this sketch. Let the inspiration rule and give us your best. You can only enter one design per competition, but don’t worry, there will be more chances every couple of weeks.

- Check-up - Don’t worry, you are not alone. We here to assist you as you go through the design process. Whenever you have a question as to whether your submission meets the basic criteria, send it in for a Check-up, and we will be happy to give you feedback. In this critique we pledge not to make any value-judgment on your work. We value each of your submissions and are not worthy of commenting on your vision before the community has had a chance to say its peace. What the Check-up is meant for is to make certain your submission meets all of the basic criteria so it is not thrown out on a technicality after all of your hard work.

- The Community - Even though we are always here to assist, more importantly, the world of designers, builders, engineers, artists, and car lovers are at you beck-and-call to critique, shape, and improve your idea. In order for this group of helpers to work as best as possible for you, we will fix your design from updates or changes once you have submitted it, so everyone can have a chance to review and comment on the same design.

So here is the roadmap for how you will mix-it-up when we launch:

A – Read the Competition description on our website. This is where you will get all of the basic information to set your mind on fire.

B – Download our Local Motors Design Ignition Kit. This will give you all the information you need to know to submit your design.

*Templates for thumbs and primary entry renderings
*Guidelines for entry (format, size, etc.)
*Guidelines for what you will need if you win (Even if you are not a winner just yet, this is critical to read. If you win you will be given the opportunity to “finish” your design sketch and convert it into 3D CAD if it is not already. This will give you the basics on what will be required at that stage. After all, we are in the business of building this car and we need you to do your part. If you are a designer, but do not have the necessary CAD skills or software, reading this ahead of time will allow you to find a teammate who can help you with this part…get ready to share your winnings.)

C – (Optional) Send us your design for a “Check-up”. This is not mandatory, but it might help your design not to get thrown out on a technicality. (We try our hardest to be open to everything, but in order to bring this Local Motors experience to you, we need some help to keep the submissions within a format we can handle. So if you plan to submit your latest caveman sketch on rawhide with charred wood shading, please choose the bronze age car company competitions ☺).

D – Drum Roll……..SUBMIT. Send your design downrange and let the community go to work. Submit - this sounds like a nasty word, and it should if you look at the etymology “from L. submittere "to yield, lower, let down, put under, reduce”. Though the old latin is pretty demeaning, we prefer to look at the verb for its mid 1500’s definition “refer to another for consideration”. And that is what you will be doing. That is mid-1500’s lingo for “Web 2.0”.

E – Watch the community at work. Call it “going back to studio”. “Having your own showing”. “Standing for critique”. “Getting a grade”. “Receiving an award”. For the remainder of the competition time, you will be able to receive, digest, and make comments on your work (and on others). You will also be able to vote liberally (no stuffing the ballot box, please). Please note, though you will be able to see and make comments, all scoring will be disguised until completion of the competition to keep voters from following the herd.

F – Win fame, bragging rights, $cash$, prizes, and earn a berth in the semi-annual final competition where you will submit a finished rendering of your sketch along with 12 other winners to compete for the Grand Prize of having your car built.

This is NOT a joke. If you win, we pay, and you get a chance to see your car on the road. Don’t try to compare this to anything you have seen before, because it simply hasn’t been done. Come on and join us!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Exploration of Car Design - Chapter 4 - Design Creation

A beginning on a longer note on the essence of Design creation and competition.

Abstracting from the subject of transportation design for a moment, what is it that sparks the creative process to design any generic object? Is it a need? A want? An inspiration? A task? A therapy? A communication?

How long should it take? Is it subject dependent? Finish quality dependent? Skill dependent? Motivation dependent? Tool dependent?

Now restrict the discussion to designing cars and I think that the same rules apply, only they are more concentrated because it is such a popular subject matter that has such an entrenched user base.                                                                                                                                                        

It is these questions that we must answer in designing the parameters of the Contest Design submission pages of our competition website. There are countless examples of long-dated submission timelines, detailed contest rules and inspiration.

More to follow as we explore and tailor our own vehicle design                                                         

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"Cross Country Rally" Back in style!!!!

Come this May, we will all be treated to a visual work of racing and design. I can only hope that it lives up to its name.

What a time to be working on a Cross Country Car!!

Go Speed Racer Go!!

Exploration of Car Design - Chapter 3 - Design Concepts and Design Museum

For this third installment on Car design it seems important to pay tribute to the concepts and designs that are already in the finished state.

First for the "Museum": This is really not the purview of the web, but rather of collections of cars that are best appreciated in there natural and very physical state. For two of the most inspiring collections on view I would point out the Blackhawk Collection in Danville, CA. Having the Maharajah Rewa's Daimler among other one-of-a-kinds such as Clark Gable's 1935 Duesenberg, this museum is a feast of automotive delight. It is worth the trip and the memories.

Perhaps even more of a fine museum is the Schlumpf Collection on the Cote D'Azur, France. As far as its notable pieces of history, it is simply enough to know that the collection has 2 of the 6 Bugatti Type 41s ("Royales") each of which is perhaps the most valuable of all cars in existence.

As for "Concepts", the list of these is more elusive since few of these cars are actually built...or if they are built, they are never sold to paying customers. Perhaps two of the most interesting sites are 1) where there is an absolutely encyclopedic list (by year) of all manufacturer concepts and 2) For example on Conceptcarz see the 2002 Mercedes-Benz F400 Carving concept which is not only cataloged here but seen with a full book of pictures. As for special finds on Seriouswheels there is a similarly voluminous list where one can find the 2006 Mercedes Mojave Runner.

Each of these museums and concept repositories is special in the world of design because we have found that over 100 years of automobile history it is difficult to point a a large number of design innovations today that cannot be found in cars from history. Swivel seats, disappearing hardtops, electric engines, all of these relatively en vogue topics of car design from 2007 are echos of previous models from the past century. This is not a bad thing, in fact, it is refreshing to see good design resurface - sometimes we must look back to move forward.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Exploration of Car Design - Chapter 2 - Design Showcase

What is it that makes designers design?

This is a critically important question. I am certain that it does not have one correct answer. I can hazard a few guesses: money, fame, infamy, critique, posterity, adulation, academic prowess, personal satisfaction. In some ways, all of these are right and the list is probably not even complete. Nonetheless, the anecdotal evidence points to a few of these reasons as critical. These "few" are focused on the process of feedback for the designers. Whether it is "fame, infamy, critique, posterity, adulation" each of these reasons assumes that a designer actually cares what a consumer of there design thinks. Hence the Showcase phenomenon.

A good example of this phenomenon is the set up of web sites that promote portfolio submission of car designs. Take for example,, this site is in large part an aggregation of transportation designers and their portfolios. Each designer has a place to upload a relatively full CV of skills, designs, education, etc. and each viewer has the ability to rate the designers portfolio.

Whether it is an innate human desire for interaction and validation, This phenomenon is not unique to car design and it seems to be that web 2.0 is a perfect forum for achieving this type of modern day show-and-tell.

Take for example the creation of a site and community such as that found at the web 2.0 T-shirt company Graphic artists (both trained formally and informally) come to this site to try their hand at competing to be "printed", and the judges are really more the community of peers than anything else....hence Web 2.0.

A little on how it works: Once you submit a design, it is viewed and graded by onlookers to the site (other artists, shoppers, and random visitors) each of whom can, and do, leave their rating and verbal feedback. An example:

This design had 1600 people score it, and 66 comments posted to it. Picking one comment at random:

It is clear that people have detailed reactions and they post them for the artist to reflect on.

In short, at Local Motors we are creating a community where designers can come to be critiqued and adored for the vehicles they pen... What is perhaps the most exciting is that the adoration (in its highest form) comes in the fact that we will actually build many of the winning cars. If you are a designer, I ask you to think on that promise for a little while. Where else can you turn to for that type of validation in the auto industry?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Exploration of Car Design - Chapter 1 - Design Tutorial

This is the first post in a series where we will explore the Local Motors' thoughts on design:

(VW Concept T)

As many of you know by now, we have a unique approach to promoting and harvesting inspiring design at Local Motors - our Web 2.0 community for body design competition. Built by our in house team and refined and completed by, you, our customers, this site is a first ever foray into complete outside inspiration to drive a new car design process.

We are planning on marketing heavily to ALL of the transportation and industrial designers that we can access, but it has also occurred to us that there may be other less formally trained designers or enthusiasts who wish to contribute to the design forum. For this group we have thought a good deal about providing on-line help. In this line of thinking, we have thought for a while that tutorials on design would be great, but perhaps a thing to add-in later.

Now, after some research, they are gaining some real traction in my mind and moving up the order in the product backlog.

Here’s why:

I have been parsing through a site called which is not as notable for its primary content (i.e. that which is at the top of its home page) but rather more for what you find down lower on the homepage.

Starting with a “boxed” section for Latest Videos, Latest Tutorials, Latest Publications, and Car Design Publications, this site is an aggregator of content from many many other design sites. You can really get lost in the videos and the tutorials. It is fresh content and hugely inspiring. Though it is a collection of redirections to other sites, I found no broken links (perhaps because they allow an easy report for a broken link) and the content is always fresh (i.e. like within the last day - see for example this example of how to make a Bugatti Veyron in CAD).

Though these tutorials and videos might not appear to be as much for the expert designer, I think that their openness and simplicity might be very welcome by all of our visitors.

Undoubtedly we will have to manage this content to keep it as fresh as it is on this site, but I think that it will become a key attraction.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Great day!

Today was the first day at work with 6 people in the Local Motors facility!

I knew it when I was sitting talking to Mike and suddenly I realized that outside of my office door there were 2 independent conversations taking place. I know that this may seem like a small event to some people, but after working alone or with only one other person for months, this buzz of activity was really thrilling. I almost felt like having a quiet triumphant moment (a la Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, where he sits back in his chair and quietly throws a fist up in the air).

After all, finally having a team in the office was a triumph over what could have been.

On a more serious note, we spent a good deal of time today getting to know each other and making some basic decisions on working tools. Though we each have computers, one of the questions was the "need to standardize", and we found ourselves in the middle of a 20 year old debate.