Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Manhattan Motors Competition - Votes are in...and the WINNERS are....

1) Green Apple by eclips aka Julien Sarreméjean
2) Morphing Concept by LR aka Raphael Laurent
3) N.Y. Electric by piero aka Pierre Gimbergues

What a tight race it was, with these three finishing with scores within 0.134 of each other out of a scale of 5.

Congratulations are in order as these contestants rose to the top of a field of 47 complete and solid entries. For Julien, it is his second LM competition, and his first win. However, this marks the second time someone from his school, ISD Valenciennes, has stood atop the winners' podium. Wow, they must feed the students their Wheaties in the North of France.

(Green Apple)

For LR, this is his second competition also, and he has done his alma mater, IED Turin, proud with his extremely forward looking Morphing Concept. The fact the the community put him within 0.002 of a first place finish is a strong indication of the support for this project. I wonder where this idea can be taken from here?

(Morphing Concept)

Finally, for piero, this is his very first LM competition and he has placed on the podium with a concept targeted directly for women. Perhaps this means that we are gathering even more strong women voters on our site, but certainly it also means that his design had more universal appeal than just the gender specificity.

(N.Y. Electric)

Make sure to stop by each of these designer's entries and to congratulate them (They are linked at the top of this blog post). They, and ALL of the others, have worked hard.

Go Local! Go Manhattan!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Motivation for first time car company builders - Space X

(Side Note: it appears that my McDonald's manager from last night's blog was sitting pretty even more at the end of the day today, as each trader whose portfolio was down 7% in one fell swoop will still be piling into a Big Mac tomorrow even if he is just as unlikely to pile into Bank stocks. Food and well-run inexpensive food restaurant options are looking pretty good as investments and jobs.)

On a separate subject, one that is perhaps related only in its relative inexpensive, well-run nature, private Space company, Space X (Space Exploration Technologies), successfully launched its first payload into orbit after a rocket launch from Kwajalein Atoll in the south Pacific. (This is of special note to me as my Marine platoon once drew the short straw of being stationed on Kwajalein in order to protect the atoll from would be attackers during the testing of the Star Wars Missile defense system. But enough about me....)

(Space X)

Space X's successful Falcon 1 rocket cost $100MM to develop and $8MM per copy to launch. While this sounds like a lot, it is actually a tiny fraction of the $150 Billion cost of the Space Shuttle Program and its $1.5 Billion cost per flight. Admittedly, each of these space craft can achieve very different things, but $8MM can be divided into $1.5 Billion over 187 times before the per launch cost can even be compared. Is the Shuttle 187 times better?

Challenging question.

Bravo Space X.

Showing us all that low-cost, challenging disruptive innovation can be achieved.

Now apply that same thinking to making a new low-cost, micro-factory for cars in the US and suddenly it doesn't seem so outlandish to all you cynics.

Go Local....maybe not on Mars just yet :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bailout or Big Mac? Reflections on a corporation of note.

Tonight, I stopped into a McDonald's to buy dinner for my family. It was a slow rainy night and the manager was at the counter.

I was curious, so I engaged him as to his history at McDonald's. At age 18 in 1979, he started with McD's in Massachusetts except for a hiatus from 1991-1995, he has worked beneath the Golden Arches for 25 years. He has worked at every single McDonald's in southeastern MA.


He volunteered that the benefit package at McDonald's was simply incredible, and that job security was undeniable. Then he offered, "I mean, tomorrow, if I move to Europe, I have a job, if I move to Japan, I have a job, if I move to Russia, I have a job....where else can you say that. Not on Wall Street, and not in Detroit. I may be a burger flipper, but it pays for my house on the Cape, my truck, my kids school, and everything else I have."

As I thought about this, it occurred to me just what the power of McDonald's was in the world of consumer acceptance and renewal. Its very nature of "fight to survive" in one of the toughest industries in commerce has made it a model of performance to be envied across industries and geographies. Not fast-food health concerns, American-domination fears, boredom from the Big Mac, or even scandal has managed to dent the armor of this economic powerhouse.

Very simply, it is my goal that Local Motors someday come to be known as an employer who is as safe, secure, and rock-steady as McDonald's. That will be a day to cheer about.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Re-body Cars? Is there a business? Let's think

Today someone asked me if I thought that there was a business in buying the regular product of a big-name OEM, stripping it down of its body and adding a new look for the car. 

Not a one-off project, not a component car, not even really a kit car, but rather a well-engineered body replacement strategy on which to base a business.

I did not have to think long in replying that this was not a good business, but why? The detailed thought process is so much more interesting than the answer. Here's how it seems to me:

Of course, the first assumption is that the person buying the car cares about the new body shape, or else why pay more to change it.

One can also assume that there is little/no environmental benefit as the weight of the total vehicle could not be meaningfully reduced, so the interested buyers would not be motivated by additional sustainability claims.

Lastly there is unlikely to be any substantial performance difference in/due to the new body.

These three reasonings guarantee that the advantage in the re-bodied car is purely restricted to the "style" of the new car. In no other way does such a car represent extra value (not in performance, engineering, layout, etc). 

This means that since the price of the previous-body OEM is fully embedded in the re-bodied car that the price of the new style must be more than the increased cost of the work plus a margin. 

And this is where the idea really falls down: is any volume of people willing to pay a substantial markup above the price of a regular OEM car just because there is a different body on the vehicle?

My answer: NO

In short, there is more magic in a car than the just the body style. Basically, the whole car must "Fit" together as a unit before it takes on a life and magic of its own....now if that is the kind of package that someone is offering, then I am all ears.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Auto "Bailout" or Bad Deal

Remember back in 1979 when Chrysler received a momentous bailout from the US Government to the tune of $1.2BN. Never before had anything so daring been proposed by automaker or government and such a deal put Lee Iacocca on the history map in the auto industry.

Today the U.S. House approved a $25BN loan to the U.S. auto industry clearing the way for the Senate Vote tomorrow and then sending it on to a receptive President for signature.

1-2-3..... WHOA!

The Big 3 US automakers claim that the recent stringent fuel economy regulations have put them in a "tough place" because they are forced to retool their businesses in order to make good on these regulations. A loan such as this would make it more easy for them to retool and to do it at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer.

Let's call a spade a spade. THIS IS WRONG. For years, the US automakers have under-invested in the necessary new physical plant to adapt their product. In truth, regulators have not made it any easier on them, but US auto regulators are not as draconian as those in other industries where reinvention happens apace. Basically, investors, executives, suppliers, and employees of these auto companies have benefited from this deferred capital expenditure (albeit at an uneven rate), and now the US tax payer is picking up the slack. And for what? A low interest loan rate. This pick-up is worth more to me, I would prefer an equity stake in one of the automakers for making this type of capital available. After all, there are other auto companies large and small from other countries which have been able to keep up with the pace of change.

This is BUSINESS: Risk your capital, and you stand to gain. Don't risk your capital, and you should NOT stand to gain.

This is NOT CHARITY: Loans such as this are transferring taxpayer wealth into the hands of a select group of investors and stakeholders.

The auto makers and their representative lawmakers claim that this loan will save jobs and pain in Michigan. That is certainly one way to stave off a smaller amount of pain, but the only real way to stem the blood-loss is to reinvent the Companies.

I have many friends in the auto industry in Detroit and I personally feel for them and their families. It has been wrenching and awful. But stacked against their pain is the functioning of our free-market business structure and the fairness of our taxation usage. Not caring for those systems will have much more grave effects. This bailout is 25 TIMES the size of the last!!

When it comes down to it, we ought to legislate to promote reinvention and entrepreneurship in companies rather than to prop up inefficient systems. If we do not do this, we will pay for it later and regret the waste we contributed to along the way.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


This is a big day for the community at Local Motors. We have recently launched our community-edited Glossary

Roget's, Webster's, Brittanica, Larousse, Oxford English are the stuff of yesterday's word compendia and scholarly etymological works. Today, ready-access to user-generated definitions have given a direct challenge to these gold standards as Wikipedia has dominated the casual-research and immediate-answer information space. This is understandable because the wiki-definitions are as close to alive and ever-refreshed as possible. They provide the maximum exposure for interested readers and contributers to assist in "improving" the definitions over time at at their own convenience.

As the community of car enthusiasts, auto mavens, and knowledge wizards has gathered around Local Motors, the amount of information that has been deposited for review and sharing is staggering. Together, the collective intelligence is enough to put any established auto company in a peer-status, and the time has come to help share and to distribute this intelligence. As a first step along this way, the new LM Glossary is live and open for business. As a registered community user, you can contribute a definition yourself as a lead, add pictures and video to your definition, and most importantly, make comments and additions to any definitions that is in the Glossary. 

In the coming weeks, we will begin to relate the Glossary terms through automatic hyperlinking to each and every mention of those terms wherever they may appear in the site. Depending upon the community's wish we will also look to add more post-submission editing ability of the lead definition as a privilege to our more dedicated users.

Another key feature of the Glossary is the leveling aspect of its education ability. A common cry of many new-comers to the site, especially pure enthusiasts, is that the site is "above their level", "out of their league", "not made with them in mind", because a good amount of the terminology is so unfamiliar. Now people who come to the site will be able to self-educate in the privacy of their own space, and not feel like they are somehow less-worthy if they didn't happen to know how a turbo-charger works, or which part of the differential is a "ring" and which part is a "pinion". 

So from now on, ring-and-pinion, turbo-charge, CHMSL, DLO, and section-line yourself to your heart's content....your community of users is now armed with ready intelligence!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Manhattan Motors Competition - VOTING IN FULL SWING

The entries are in, and there are well over 40 original concepts vying for $2000 in cash prizes, status as a winner in the LM community, and, of course, the coveted right to wear the LM "In the Studio shirt".



There is almost a week left in the voting period, but already the magnitude of voting is on pace to eclipse that of any previous competition...This competition has clearly stoked a great deal of interest, and the voting public obviously cares about the outcome.

Come and Vote


Here's how:

1) Come the to studio home page.

2) Click this "Competition" tab:

3) All of the concepts will be displayed and

4) You can then start picking ones on which to vote and navigate through them.

ALSO if you have opinions, there is a comment box on every design, read the commentary and add your own thoughts. The designers have worked hard, as has the Company team, in putting on this competition, and we want to know what you think of the designs. This feedback is especially important if you are familiar with the target area, Manhattan.

As a voter and a commenter, you are heard and you are a stakeholder in the new kind of cars that Local Motors will build in any given area. We treasure your opinion. For decades no one who was building cars for you might have asked your opinion and actually LISTENED. We are all ears and you are already telling us the most fantastic details.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thoughts on buying a car

This weekend, my family and I went on a car-purchase scouting mission. For various reasons, we have been wanting to replace one of our cars, and we went hunting around for some models in which we had an interest.

Our primary foci, in this purchase, are

1) Style - or at least as much as we can find.
2) Space to carry a guest when we have the kids in the car,
3) Fuel economy with great performance (i.e. DIESEL)
4) Buying pre-owned, if at all possible, to avoid the significant premium of a new car over the first year or two.

That is about it in terms of defining our purchase.

Since desire for a specific design really doesn't exist, from the get-go the other concerns 2, 3, 4 have really dominated our decision. It is interesting to note that if there were to be a car to choose that is beautiful, gut-grabbing, and/or MUST-HAVE, then all other concerns would become impediments that you would hope to overcome so that you can simply get yourself into the car of your dreams, BUT that if the choice is more defined by a set of unremarkable vehicles, then the decision points become much more cerebral and the outcome more utilitarian.

To me it is revolting. The very idea that my family would ever buy something as expensive as a car and not be over the moon about the physical attraction to the product is repugnant. Call me vain or style-conscious, but I care what I am seen in - what I see my family in - and given a choice....just one small choice with beauty, style, sex, killer-looks, head-turning curves, and THAT is the vehicle I will buy.

This is the way much of our car buying public feels, and yet the car selection today does little to reflect these inner desires. If I have to look at another minivan, SUV, or Crossover, and rationalize how it fulfills our basic needs and doesn't look "all that bad", I am going to start my own car company :) ....whooops, already done that :)

The good news is that Local Motors is building my next car right now, and I am so crazy excited about it that I dream about completion day of my car.

Here's to the Rogers family's very own Rally Fighter in 2009. I am already fetishing over the graphic scheme!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cash Management at a Startup pt. 2

On June 3, 2008, I discussed Local Motors newly-instituted cash management policy wherein we deliberately moved funds out of our commercial bank account into a highly diversified fund of fixed income securities.

This week, the hypothetical risk that we were addressing has come to pass. There is fear and actual evidence of bank failure, corporate failure, and many other kinds of financial risk. Even Treasury securities have been seen selling at a Premium in today's dollars.

In short, what was a theoretical exercise 3 months ago, has today become the bedrock of peace of mind for running a start-up with regular cash needs in the midst of financial market turmoil.

Nothing is immune from unexpected events, but capital diversification and a risk management strategy are critical elements for any CEO to manage in a new startup. This is one test that we hope our open blog strategy might have helped with by encouraging others to avoid themselves over-allocation in one asset.

If there are helpful hints you would like to share with us, please let us know in response to this blog as we are always open and thankful for good advice. We never know when it may make a huge difference.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kindred Spirits in open engineering- Bewerp and LM

For a little while now, a small group in the Netherlands who is building a 4 door, 4 Seat, supercar, has been sharing their development and build process.

Bewerp, the name of the Company, and The Savage, the name of the car, are the brainchild and creation of Emile Pop and Justin DeBoer, two Dutch designers who have been at work for 5 or so years developing the concept and now building.

From Local Motors, we give them 2 giant thumbs up for their persistence and pursuit of excellence in a niche which I have always felt deserves more attention - a supercar that has 4 legitimate seats.

I am, of course, curious what feedback or orders they received on the design from early buyers before they began to develop more seriously, but that would just be to satisfy my business curiosity. My personal curiosity is sated in the fact that these two have set out to do something grand and they are well on your way.

Thank you for sharing so many pictures of the build on your profile on our website. It is an inspiration to all and we at LM are looking for more bold folks like yourself to join our community.

I have included a few pictures in this LM blog here to pique readers interest, but those that wish to see more should go to Emile's profile on LM and take a close look.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A little bit of chuffing for LM and the community

Today I was at a meeting at the Arthur Rock Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard Business School. It appears that the powers that be have added our LM hat to the display case of businesses started by HBS grads.

Some of these businesses have since been sold, but many are still independent and VERY successful.

We have big shoes to fill.... we are display case famous! This means we are either a relic already, OR we are going to be worthy some day. Oh the pressure!

Thank you to all of you in the community who have helped us to get this far. We appreciate your efforts and together we will earn our place in this display case.


ISI Emerging Markets (now part of Thompson Financial).....

Sam Adams Beer....

New England Patriots....

Baby Style....


and many more

including now... LOCAL MOTORS.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Manhattan Motors Competition - Began today

Today the entry time for "Manhattan Motors" began. With $2000 in cash prizes and status for the winning designer in the LM community on the line, Manhattan Motors took stage as the central focus of the next couple of weeks.

Already the first entries are being honed in checkup and there appears to be a fundamental excitement about the prospect of what such a vehicle and what such a paradigm means.

It did not occur to us (and certainly we could not have known) that launching this competition for entries was going to coincide with a day of relative financial crisis in Manhattan.

But perhaps it is a signal. New York is today a town of arts and finance and real estate...These last two have suffered in the throws of the US credit contraction, but perhaps this means that at least another business could be started in Manhattan, a business which offsets the linkage of success in the city to only the performance of a group of banks.

Perhaps this is an unlikely dream to some, but I don't believe that Wall Street is all that exists in the Empire city. Main Street is still there somewhere when you look closely, and Local Motors would like you to take a drive down it in style.

Some of the resonance with days gone by is most interesting. Take for example, this connection:

Vincent Astor, philanthropist and descendant of Manhattan real estate impresario, John Jacob Astor, used to tool around in Manhattan in this rare model of car.....

a 1934 Brewster-bodied Ford Town car

As it turns out the Brewster was sold to him by entrepreneur J. S. Inskip, a famous Manhattan automobile dealer, whose name lives on in the Penske Auto Group location in Warwick Rhode Island. And as coincidence would have it, it is this very Inskip where Local Motors has sourced the majority of its engine parts.

So if Manhattan Motors comes to pass, once again, Inskip parts could be trolling around the streets of Manhattan driven perhaps by the likes of modern day Astors, but definitely by more "normal" New Yorkers.

Come check out and vote on the entries as they come in during the week. Voting continues for two weeks.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

La Carrozzeria.....Cosa?

Visit the halls of Geneva's Palexpo for the Geneva Auto Show or the annual Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa D'Este in Como and the word Carrozzeria is thrown around in common parlance. But for many around the world "Carrozzeria" is an unknown word.

Literally, the word in Italian translates to the "body" or "skin" of a motor vehicle, but more generally a Carrozzeria is known as a coachbuilder who makes bodys of cars. In a more refined nuance of the word, Carrozzeria is understood to be a car design company PLUS an engineering company PLUS a limited production company.

It is in this final and more wistful definition that the idea truly comes to life for Local Motors. Famous carrozziere (plural of the word) include such icons as Scaglietti, Vanden Plas, and Ghia, but in most cases past iconic car builders such as these have been purchased (or assumed for their debts) by larger automakers who desire to inherit some of their cache.

I think that it is fair to say that the day of the Carrozzeria in its full glory could once again be dawning. As I've detailed in my earlier posts, many of the large automakers are stumbling, those that are not regularly reach to their smaller brands to maintain currency (e.g. VW to Lamborghini, Bugatti, Bentley), and some new/reinvigorated small car makers are pushing hard to change the way the marketplace works (e.g. Lotus, Ken Okuyama Cars, Morgan, and, of course, Local Motors).

(Lotus' Elise)

(Morgan's Life Car)

(Ken Okuyama's K.O.8)

If this resurgence does in fact come to pass and new successful auto companies are born, it will be less because the underlying cost structure of the industry has changed but rather because the customer preference has become refined beyond the deliverable of a more traditional automotive conglomerate and that the value chain has become segmented differently. Smaller Carrozziere will own design, assembly, and differentiated "niche" customers, while the larger automakers will continue to own low cost, volume production, mass-market cars. Who ends up being more profitable remains to be seen..... after all, did you know that family-controlled, sportscar, elite, automaker Porsche now controls VW group?

Cin! Cin! Carrozzeria of the future. We are with you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where have you gone Maximum Bob?

Attached is a snipet from Charlie Rose's PBS interview with Bob Lutz, GM's Vice Chairman of Global Product Development.

I have been a huge fan of "Guts" Lutz for as long as I have known about him because of his focus on customers' wants and not customers' needs in building new cars, and, of course, because we are both avid pilots, we share a love of cars, and we both have proudly served as Captains in the Marines. But in this interview, I heard a number of things that felt like Bob Lutz was not himself. It is hard for me to criticize a personal hero, but these are things I would like better to understand.

1) Charlie Rose recounted the story when Rick Wagonner leaned over at an awards ceremony and asked Lutz at age 70 in a whisper where GM could find a young Bob Lutz to come over to the company and work the same magic. A good Marine would have recommended any of the 1000's of hard chargers that he had worked with at Ford, BMW, Chrysler, etc. and given them the same shot that Henry Ford II (Ford) or Eberhard von Kunheim (BMW) gave Bob Lutz early in his career, but for some reason, Lutz claimed that he knew no one like himself and so all he could recommend was the original Bob.

2) When asked if the idea of an all electric car such as the Chevy Volt came to him when he "woke up in the morning", Bob took credit claiming that "that is the way his brain works" and he further accepted that this will be the "crowning glory of his achievements". Neither of these statements are true, because Bob Lutz clearly did not come up with this idea when he woke up...he didn't come up with this idea at all. And as for his achievements, the Volt is a team effort not only within GM but outside in a network of critical suppliers whom Bob woefully neglected to recognize.

3) When asked which car he is most proud of today and which one he enjoys the most to drive in his career, he moved past all of his Chrysler and BMW accomplishments and answered the Chevy Malibu and the Chevy Corvette, respectively. Now coming from a guy who flies F-20 Tigershark jets, McDonnell-Douglas helicopters, and was the father of the Dodge Viper, I have a hard time believing that he is answering this question in anyway but a blunt corporate shill. He has earned the right to be more honest.

4) Next he claimed that he did not believe in Global Warming personally but that he believed that the Volt was the most important innovation to be introduced in decades. Is he pandering to environmental fears and laughing at those same people behind their backs? Regardless of what you believe, this seems dangerously sneid.

5) Finally, he claimed that GM was late to the fuel efficient car segment, because the company was so profitable when gas was $1.80 per gallon at the same time that its trucks were selling so well. Further he claimed that Shareholder interests would not have allowed GM to build smaller fuel efficient cars at such a time. Apparently, he forgets that some shareholders are looking for vision in corporate leadership and that reinvesting great profits in new and different ways is often looked upon very favorably. Perhaps he also forgets that Toyota is itself a public company and yet its shareholders seemed to countenance the pursuit of the barely break-even Prius when GM was making tons of profitable trucks.

In all, while I found the basic message of "please the wants of the customers to whom you need to sell and to heck with everyone else" intact, I honestly felt as if Bob Lutz has lost some of the gentlemanly guts he once displayed so easily. I hope that this is a momentary dislocation of the guts and that once the Volt his launched he will leave GM and get comfortable back in his own skin.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Car Tetris" just got one step easier

When we began to uncover and sort out the way in which Local Motors would conceive, design, and build vehicles, there were many questions we developed as to how and in what order we would execute different steps.

In many ways the creation of a car is simple: make a chassis, put on the axles, suspension, and wheels, drop in an engine, make a body, and put them together. VOILA.

....however layer on cost, availability, design constraints of style and performance, and suddenly even the way you put these steps together changes radically...and that is if you already know what it was going to look like in the end. Design everything for the first time, and it becomes a supreme game of tetris and an expensive one if you have to back up.

Because of this complexity, we have wanted to earn the right to push the Tetris pieces "back up the screen" and to start again with a different approach. The question is how to do this without great cost. Early on in our planning, we identified the need to build and test as much as possible in the digital realm before we began to commit $ to tools. Developing this ability would allow us to try out different configurations with much less fear of failure. It would give us FLEXIBILITY.

Today we see the effects of one technique, built upon this ethos, beginning to bear fruit. Several months ago, we began to train on 3D scanning in order to model suppliers' parts that we thought we might use. If this was successful, and that was a big "IF", we would be able to place parts together as if we were building to test for interferences and to build the entire vehicle more rapidly in a virtual world so that we could uncover and deconflict issues before it cost us a great deal of money.

Drum Roll....... following is the recent scan of our engine system that Mike has spearheaded. Such a surface is an unbelievable representation of the data and allows us to work with a great deal of precision as we design.

In the Family

As some of you know, my grandfather was the president of Indian Motorcycle Company in the 40's and 50's. He lost a lot of money in the company, worked the hardest perhaps that he ever did, and had memories for a lifetime.

When my grandmother passed away just a short while ago, my father and I went through her trunk, and I copied a few photographs from the Indian Days.

These will soon be enlarged and hung with pride at the LM facility.

My Grandfather (left) and Father (right)

My Grandfather (right) with his arm around the shoulder of my uncle (middle) at the races in Daytona, FL

Can you see the smile in his face. This is the way I feel every day when I go to work.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Manhattan Motors Competition - Inspired by Better Place

As of noon today, it is official, the fifth and latest Local Motors car design competition is Manhattan Motors (Inspired by Better Place).


Local Motors claims as its mission the creation of game changing cars tailored to a local environment - small scale auto manufacturing made to suit the needs of a local area.

When we found out about Better Places' plan to roll out regional recharging networks as steps on the way to becoming a global, electric-car, grid operator, we were inspired. What a great thing for the planet and for car manufacturers. It is a big challenge for them, but then again, so is building a car so it makes sense to split those challenges apart - 1) making the batteries and recharging solution and 2) making the cars to run on them.

So far, there is at least one major OEM, which has announced its intention to roll out a line of cars made to recharge on the Better Place grid. That is great news, only those cars are not that inspiring, and they appear to be the same car for every network location.

We think that our community could deliver a solution that is tailor made for each Better Place network, and in so doing, design a car that is something that you HAVE to own in addition to all of its other benefits, rather than something that you buy reluctantly only because it is the sensible choice and gives a tax break. Why not have all those juicy benefits AND wow the neighbors with your cool, beautiful, sexy, gotta-have-it vehicle. Too much to ask? Depends on what company you ask.

We are so confident of our community's ability to deliver these concepts that we chose a local network area that we imagined could work for Better Place's roll-out strategy, and then we created a competition around it. This could be the first of several competitions that we run in order to flesh out the Better Place idea.

So watch closely as competition entries develop and begin flowing in next week.

If you are inspired to make a difference in the world, and you live in a place where you could see an electric recharging grid being built, THIS is a great time to get involved. Support and critique the competition entries as they flow into Checkup this week, and then vote for them when they start coming in next Monday, September 15th.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Another take on "Why can't America build a great car?"

On August 26th, George F. Colony, founder and CEO of Forrester Research group, asked this title question to a lively audience in his Counterintuitive Blog.

Though I recommend taking the time to read the entire post, for those of you that would rather not surf, here is the basic message distilled in this quote:

Why can't American companies build a great car? They are designing and manufacturing day in and day out, so what is preventing them from making something great?

I've heard many theories. From a high-level U.S. auto executive: "It's the unions." From a manufacturing consultant: "It's the short-sighted management in the car companies -- they refuse to see the future." From an investor: "U.S. car companies are run by accountants and other assorted bean counters -- they don't love or know cars." Here's my thesis -- America has had too few car makers over the last 70 years. Alfred Sloan did a great disservice to the country when he rolled up Buick, Pontiac, et.al., eliminating vital competition and distributed ideas. The Big Three, all based in Detroit, engaged in massive group think for so long, they lost their creativity, their difference, and their innovation. Thinking of Sloan reminds me of a favorite quote: "The biggest enemy of capitalism is a successful capitalist."

Not only was the subject of Colony's Blog, right up our alley at LM, but also the responses to the blog itself and the depth of thought on this issue has been indicative of the fever there is amongst many people to have a change. Perhaps almost just as incredible is the hard charging sentiment that believes that change has already come - a sentiment that continues to look to current OEM models and methods and to believe that their resulting products are new enough to satisfy the winds of change. Who are we to believe?

I could not recommend highly enough that you read the blog and the comments. For example, in the responses a man named Robert Ballentyne specifically writes and asks "how many other niches are not being served?" He agrees with Colony as he lives in the Pacific Northwest and pines for the fact that no one has ever made a vehicle to serve his type of market. We are on the cusp of serving just that type of market and interest with Local Motors new method of design, selection, assembly, and sales.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

How we, at a small car company, can change the Local refueling options

As I finished in last night's blog, "Big-capital plants, high-finish products, tightly integrated dealership channel and upstream manufacturers together are a perfectly terrible recipe for choice, change, and adoption of local and competing refueling solutions.

Local Motors aims to change that recipe…"

Here's how.

The First Step.

2 years ago I met Shai Agassi when he was developing the seed of Project Better Place while still at SAP. Now one year after their official launch, Better Place (the “Project” part has now been dropped) has a plan to become a global electric-car grid operator. Said plainly, they own the batteries, the recharging, and the software. You own the car. Basically, for those autos, which adhere to the standard, their users can operate seamlessly within range of the recharging network.

Sounds good! …. if the recharging network is real and accessible.

Though Better Place has a LOT of money (read $100’s of Millions of US Dollars in investment), even its war-chest is not enough to blanket the world in a recharging grid of battery-swapping and parking-place recharging stations; therefore, they are launching in tightly defined regional areas where drivers tend to want/need to stay local.


…are just a few examples of where they would like to roll out.

So far they have signed up one automotive partner, Renault, who plans to carry the technology to market in a modified Megane-like sedan, whose styling can best be described as unremarkable. Renault is building this $20K car to support Better Place all over the world wherever Better Place goes.

In Israel, your Better Place car is…

In Denmark, you will be driving a Better Place car that looks like…

And yes, in Hawaii when you go to surf the Banzai Pipeline or drive up with your sweetie to the Pali lookout after a quick battery swap, you will be driving – you guessed it - …

Enter Local Motors.

We are inspired by Better Place. Not only do we like that their heart is in a good place, but also, we think that our Micro Factory Retail plan is a perfect complement to their plan. In whatever tightly defined regional area where they roll out, we would like to move in with an LM Micro Factory and to deliver vehicles that rock the Local styling Kasbah! Some people will buy the Megane for the price, others will pay more for the LM style, but ONLY LM’s product will bring high-quality Local jobs, a personal service and recycling presence, and vehicles designed FOR THE LOCAL BETTER PLACE.

So with that drum roll, here comes our next competition. Let’s show Better Place what our community can develop when it comes to a LOCAL focused car. After all, our community rocks at designing cars with unique Local DNA.

On Monday check out the site to see the description of the next LM Competition....

Is it the technical challenge or the scale that holds back new cars on the road?

Take one look at the US Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website at (http://www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/stations/advanced.php) and you will see the vast proliferation of Drivetrain Fueling choices. Some you probably didn’t know even existed, but the fact is that the future direction of Transportation fueling is being hotly contested and there is more choice and less certainty than ever before in the history of the automobile. The DOE lists – and allows you to locate - refueling stations in the following technology categories:

• Biodiesel (B20 and above)
• Compressed Natural Gas
• Electric
• Ethanol (E85)
• Hydrogen
• Liquefied Natural Gas(LNG)
• Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Propane)

And that extensive list is not even inclusive of refueling choices in other technologies such as:

• Clean Diesel
• Compressed Air
• Stirling Fuel

And of those listed stations none of them includes the result of the larger initiatives that are already planning regional roll outs of targeted refueling networks such as:

• The Pickens Plan CNG network
• Project Better Places’s Electric infrastructure
• California Fuel Cell Partnerships Hydrogen Infrastructure

What is happening in this country? What ever happened to leaded or unleaded? Super or Regular? Gas or Diesel?

From individual technologies to whole network plans, choice is proliferating; however, due to

1. the massive dollar cost of most infrastructure development,
2. the large number of competing champions for individual technologies, and
3. the limited availability of cars to run on a specific type of energy storage….

alternative refueling markets are increasingly segmented. This segmentation creates a specific problem for auto manufacturers who ideally like to build single types of cars and to build those types in big volume.

The problem is not the length of time it takes to develop most alternative fuel drivetrains. Automakers are less concerned being able to meet the technical challenges as they are in meeting the economies of scale. A standard hybrid car can be converted to a plug-in Hybrid in an hour, a CNG drive train that is bi-fuel ready costs $12,000 and will have you running in no time, biofuel conversion is basically a no-brainer, etc, etc.

Said another way, its not as much a worry that the targeted refueling networks will pop up and disappear overnight so that an automaker might make a car for Sacramento’s CNG station network and then that network disappears by the time the car is ready to be built. No. It is more a problem that the networks are not big enough and widespread enough to support the roll out of an OEM car program where a major car manufacturer sells cars from a diffuse dealership network all over the country, so they simply don't do it.

Big-capital plants, high-finish products, tightly integrated channel and upstream manufacturers together are a perfectly terrible recipe for choice, change, and adoption of local refueling solutions.

Local Motors aims to change that recipe.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Our first home grown Design in Process - FILSKI's B7

Great credit today goes out to community member and Local Motors competition winner, FILSKI, who has become so inspired by the very nature of design process that he has taken his very own design and begun to move it in a Design Process of its very own.

In the creation of the concept, FILSKI received 75+ votes plus comments from the community and he avidly used the checkup feature on the site to iterate the concept before submitting it in its final competition form.

(B7 - FILSKI, local-motors.com)

Then he waited. When the competition for which he submitted the concept was long over, and when the prototype build of the LM Rally Fighter had already begun, he quietly began the development of the B7 into a model. He did not settle for doing it in the privacy of his own studio, but rather submitted it to the overall community for public viewing and comment.

We at LM created the formal Design Process in order to move forward those designs whose potential had not been recognized by the community or their own creators. With the B7 that support was not even necessary, as its creator took this step without any assistance. Follow this great process in checkup and VOTE as FILSKI continues his groundbreaking development and community participation. He is a beacon lighting the way for the future of transportation designers.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The community transition from Talk to Touch

This past week, community member, Bosnian citizen, and Boston resident, ADIS, made a hajj to Local Motors HQ. To some this may have just been a physical embodiment of a visit to our website, but for us the physical difference was unmistakable. The electricity of this community member's visit was tangible to all on the team, and it is that effect that will always define the importance of making the physical connection out of the web-based community. Real enthusiasts, real products, fantastic connection.

Just read what ADIS posted on the LM site shortly after his visit:

HELLO JAY :) UNFORTUNATELY i m still without internet connection and waiting for verizon to save me:)I m using my friends computer. I just wanna thank you for giving me the opportunity to visit the LOCAL MOtors team.It was really the honor talking to you and meeting the whole crew at LM headquarter.You showed me everything from company vision ,philosophy,goals and the whole design process of making the very first car Rally Fighter.I just wanna tell the all LM comunity members that LM rally fighter is not a vision any more its not a dream it has become an reality !! I saw it with my own eyes.It is something i've never seen before it is LM reality :)One more time i wanna thank you JAY for giving me your time and showing me everything that i always wanted to know about Local Motors.And i wanna thank the all members and designers around the world who are making Local Motors being what it is today " it will become one of the best car design company in US,and soon around the world."Its all because you guys are making this POSSIBLE!!:) THANK YOU JAY

'nough said. LM is all about LOCAL presence, and customer interaction. This is our strategic difference with major auto producers. If ADIS is any indication, we are off to the right start.

Keep an eye out for pictures of ADIS' visit coming up in the next couple of days.