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.


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