Monday, March 30, 2009

First drive in a TH!NK City Electric Car

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to drive a TH!NK City electric car for the first time. I was in the Bay Area and visiting another Company when I was offered the chance to make the test drive. I jumped at the chance and here are the results.

Interestingly enough, though exhilarated to get behind the wheel and to press the accelerator, the novelty of battery electric wore off faster than I could get from 0-30mph. Right away, I was "noticing" some of the side-effects, like different high-pitched whines, rattles that were unheard before, and lack of many things (AC, long range, etc).

What it really said to me in the end is that cars are about so much more than simple powertrain. Range, Curb appeal, Performance, Usability, and many more factors come into play in order to make a vehicle a must-have. In the next couple of days I will detail more on what TH!NK did to meet (or miss) some of these objectivves.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Achates Power

For those close followers of the blog, you may have noticed that I missed Friday's post. It was because I was on a red-eye back from the West Coast after a whirlwind trip across Arizona and California.

One particular visit that I would like to note (though it has little bearing on LM directly) is my morning spent with Achates Power ('eh-KAY-teez') co-founder and CTO, Jim Lemke. Rarely have I met a man with such enthusiasm and knowledge for highly technical engine start-ups as Jim. He has been at it since the early 1950's and is an inspiration to me and, I am sure, many others.

Achates is a new lightweight, clean-diesel engine manufacturer, who has refined, reinvented, and made real a technology from the dust-bin of diesel history. Much of what they have accomplished is secret, and their website makes it pretty clear that they are running dark.

What they can say is that they started with the baseline of a Junkers Jumo engine (205-208 series) and have created a revolution of efficiency and low-emissions in diesel. With over 40 iterations, under his belt, Lemke has doggedly pursued the engine and its flaws to a resulting tour de force of diesel engineering. The Junkers Jumo was pehaps last seen as a German long range diesel powerlant for the Luftwaffe.


















(Junkers Jumo - Wikipedia)



Lighter than you can imagine and fewer parts than you've ever seen in a diesel, the Achates diesel technology has the real potential to change the diesel world.

Though they do not intend to make production engines, Achates will be licensing the technology to automakers and allowing them to develop tailored solutions. In this way, this new start-up will be taking those companies and us, as consumers, to new heights. I expect that this will do even more to redefine the way that we think about diesel in America and the way that we perceive engine innovation in the US.

Perhaps we will even one day see a Junkers Jumo in a Local Motors vehicle.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Local-Motors is 1!

And what has happened on this first birthday:

Started in Phoenix to look at a potential first Micro-Factory location. This time last year, just getting settled in Wareham, MA.

Stopped in SF riding in a TH!NK city (video tomorrow) and reflected on how they are in bankruptcy. This time last year, TH!NK was a giant in the startup industry.

In Mountain View looking at a new battery pack supplier. This time last year, didn't even know what kind of car we would build or powerplant we would use.

Passed 2232 active users and 27,700 unique designs. This time last year, 0 active users and 0 designs. UNBELIEVABLE and humbled by our community.

Ended the night on the way to San Diego to visit our shock supplier, SoCal engineering team, and 2 engine companies. This time last year, none of those existed. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT.

Had a twitter carchat with Jason Castriota and LM and the community hosted by Michael Banovsky. Think about this. Jason is now director at Stile Bertone, and LM is in 121 countries around the globe with an infectious car design and development strategy. This time last year, Jason was considering what to do with life, and we were in 0 countries.

This exists now in all our hearts. This time last year, it didn't.





































Today is a day to reflect on all that our community has achieved and to thank our team for all that they have sacrificed and done. Bravo. Here's to March 2010! See you then with another recap.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fast Company strikes again and right in the LM Strike Zone.

Reading the April Issue of Fast Company on the way out to Phoenix this morning to look at our newest potential micro-factory site, I was hit by the obvious train coming and going.

Coming…..

p. 58 Often I read the magazine, thinking how little it has to do with the “stuff-making” economy. This time, a friend of mine in the VC industry sent me a quip about Chris Hughes joining General Catalyst, so I am reading the cover article on Hughes (co-founder of Facebook and creator of MyBarackObama), and again, I think, “neat guy, but little to add to Local Motors”. Then on page 97 in the over-flow pages (which often holds the journalistic gems) the train hits me that Hughes and LM are gelling.

“He [Hughes] thinks that Web 2.0 underemphasizes the real world and that businesses trying to tap the technology often miss the main point. His philosophy, he says, is unchanged from his first involvement with Facebook: ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s a [car] company or a campaign; you build around commonality. If it’s real people and real communities, then it’s valuable. Otherwise, it’s just playing around online.’”

Of course the [car] is added ☺, but “Amen, Chris!” When I am next in Brooklyn, let’s have a coffee/tea/Brooklyn-community-drink-of-choice and talk about the Local Motors physical community that is about to grow out of our on-line marketplace and spill into our micro-factories in local communities. In case you missed it, late in 2008, our community designed the most awesome Manhattan car called the Green Apple. Voted “in” by NYC lovers, Built in NYC for NYC lovers, Loved in NYC by NYC lovers.

And Going…

p.72 - This time, I am reading page 72 because it has a tantalizing article entitled, “10 Ways to Jump Start the Auto Business”. No brainer eye-candy for the head local motorhead, right? At first, I am stung that they have ignored our team in this article and gone to others to answer this question, but then I am hit by that all too familiar train once more.

7 out of the 10 Ways they suggest are a perfect reflection of Local Motors ideology and implementation. I guess they did not ignore us after all. Let’s count ‘em up.

1 – Let President Obama Take the Wheel – in this section, policy guidance is the meat and potatoes and John Decicco (senior fellow, Environmental Defense Fund) plugs carbon cap-and-trade adding “it’s an incredible waste for automakers to chase ideas like electric cars. They might be important in the future, but a few years ago, it was ethanol; before that, hydrogen. Current automotive tech can take us pretty far without these unproven technologies.” Welcome to Local Motors.

2 – The iPhone Solution – in this section Dave Bieselin (director of unified communications, Cisco) states “the trick is to motivate people to buy a whole new set of vehicles, the way the iPhone changed the cell-phone market.” Welcome to Local Motors.

3 – Get Sexy – Here XZIBIT (host of MTV’s Pimp My Ride) quips “Look at the Prius. It’s a nerd car. Yeah, you’re being environmentally friendly, but your dating life is gonna suck….Automakers just got $17 Billion. Give me $1 Billion. I’ll turn that shit around.” XZIBIT, we can help you turn that shit around for way less than $1 Billion, but I here ya’ brother. Welcome to Local Motors.

5 – Why Geckos Can’t Solve the Problem - Mike Hughes (chief creative at The Martin Agency, responsible for the “Geico Gecko”) says the soothe, “As powerful as advertising and marketing are, they’re not going to save the American car industry. What the industry needs is a vision. The kind Bill Gates had for software, Steve Jobs has for Apple, and, yes, Henry Ford had for automobiles. Don’t just give us what you think we want; give us what we should want.” A rare admission for a proud creative, but brutally honest. Our community is the keeper of that vision. Welcome to Local Motors.

6 – Respect Dirty Work – In this section, Mike Rowe (Star and Exec Producer of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe) blurts:

“…after 200 Dirty Jobs and five years of unintended social anthropology, I do have a theory regarding our overall relationship with manufacturing.
I believe the majority of people in this country are deeply disconnected from the Americans who still make stuff [OHMIGOD, is this guy great or what?]. Forty years ago, it was easy to buy American. Not just because our stuff was better than theirs. We bought American goods because we actually knew people who were making them. It was a powerful and personal connection that tied us to the products we bought.
The seismic shift from manufacturing to services has not only changed the composition of our gross domestic product, but also changed our national mind-set toward work. We no longer celebrate the way things get made. We are more interested in the way things get bought. In this global economy, we focus only on the finished product, which makes Americans who still make them largely invisible.
Much has been written about the drama between management and organized labor, but the bigger struggle is our dysfunctional relationship with work…”

For a Marine who chose to leave the Ivory Tower to knuckle down in the Jungles of the South Pacific and the Deserts of the Middle East, I bow at the temple of Mike Rowe. You are welcome to Local Motors at any time, any day, no advance warning needed. Please let us know when you are ready to stop being a spokesman for the Ford Trucks.

7 – The Facebook Solution – Here John McElroy (host of Speed Network’s Autoline Detroit) calls for what Local Motors has just done, “Almost 100% of the value created with a new car comes from design and engineering. But 60% to 70% of the time spent on product creation is a waste – you’ve got thousands of people at different companies working on the same problems. I would create an information portal for the entire industry…Imagine combining the best aspects of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. We have to break down those silos and share info. It’s product creation 2.0.” John, we don’t plan to create A-date for Auto enthusiasts looking for love, but it seems neither do you. We have lead our effort with a platform for distributed auto education, and it is here to stay. Welcome to Local Motors.

9 – Bet on Biology – J. Craig Venter (founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics) reflects on the progress and simple promise of biology,

“I remember auto shows as a little kid…it was all electric cars or cars that got 100 to 200 miles per gallon – these innovation have been around for decades. Yet not much has changed. That’s nto a failure of science; it’s a failure to implement the tools and technology that have been around for a long time.
…Biology can produce any molecule we want, including existing gasoline molecules or diesel or jet fuel. The question is, can it produce the billions of gallons we continually use? We need something that is infinitely scalable, and that is what biology is….
We don’t need radical new technologies to use the tools that come out of biology. We need a push to make it happen.”

Craig, I believe that we are serving as that “push”. Welcome to Local Motors.


I guess all this means that I will renew my subscription to Fast Company.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Local Motors on NECN this past Friday.

This Friday, Mass High Tech Reporter, Galen Moore, wrote a piece on Local Motors and then wsa interviewed on the New England Cable News Network (NECN) regarding Local Motors.

Check it out. Very good reporting.

Thanks Galen for your careful questions and spectacular delivery. I am humbled.

Our community is thankful.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First Live LM Broadcast and Chat is a Success!

On Friday, as announced, we hosted our first live broadcast and community chat via our LM TV channel. A 45 minute session dedicated to the following:

- LM itself
- The LM Community and its roots
- The Rally Fighter
- Our facility (aka micro-factory) progress
- Q&A with the worldwide audience

Though we missed recording the first minute of the broadcast due to technical difficulties, the rest is captured here for posterity and review. Many gems are held herein, and if you missed it, I recommend you carve out some time over a lunch to watch this and to learn more about what we have done, are doing, and will do....After all this is one of America's most exciting new Companies and Products :)

Enjoy, and try to forgive the somewhat "stiff" commentator (yours truly) - I am working on my style and promise to make improvements!

Thank you especially to all those who took the time out to join us and to ask questions and share thoughts.

Stay Tuned, we will be back with Episode 2 in short order.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

TopCoder is at it again! Going to work over the Buy page.

Today our next major TopCoder Design competition is going live.

Due on March 26th, the submissions of the entrants to this competition will compete for a prize purse of $1350 and take Local Motors forward into the Buy environment where we will engage all future customers of the Rally Fighter and help them to prepare for their purchase of a revolutionary automotive experience.























Based on the new home page above (also a TopCoder creation), which is soon to debut, this Buy Page Competition on TopCoder Studio carries the Objective and description of the following elements:

OBJECTIVE
To create a "buy section" for the www.local-motors.com website. The purpose of this section is to promote the upcoming Local Motors production vehicles to prospective customers. These pages will also be used to execute a customer transaction that both collects deposits while also assigning these customers a number that determines the order in which their vehicle and build experience will be available.

Local Motors is a new car manufacturer of limited production, environmentally friendly, community-designed specialty vehicles where customers participate in the build process in a build program at the micro-factory. This web site hosts a web community of car enthusiasts, transportation designers that collaborate to assist the design actual production vehicles. This "Buy" page provides the first page/section specifically for Local Motors customers.
To watch the competition in action (check out the TopCoder page), sign up to follow the forum and then be sure to check back on the 26th when the submissions will be in and we will see what the community delivers.

This is a big step forward for the new site look, for Local Motors, and for our customers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Our first LM Live Chat

This Friday, March 20th at 11:45am (EDT, -4 UTC) I am planning to break it down Barney-Style on a live chat on our new Ustream.tv station.

If you have never seen this type of broadcast, you are certainly in for a treat. As it will be a live broadcast from the Local Motors Studio in sunny Wareham, MA accompanied by questions from a live audience from across the globe.

You can find it and join us here:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/local-motors-community-chats

You don't have to sign up on Ustream.tv to join in. You just have to go to the link above at 11:45.

This is an excellent way to communicate with your Local team in Massachusetts and to learn about what we are up to in real time. Bring snacks if you are on the East Coast for lunch and bring dinner if you are in France. Everyone else, just bring yourself.

See you on Ustream.tv

Community Success Story

Yesterday Ari wrote in her blog about a guest post from community member, Jonathan Kasubma.
























Jonathan has been a community member from the earliest days (goes by the screen name Me2), and when Ari offered him the opportunity to guest blog, he jumped at the chance and here is what he said:

Where does one begin describing a trail blazer, a lone star, a maverick; where do i begin
to describe a company that has sought to challenge an industry shrouded in secrecy. Well all i can say is that Local Motors put concept to action and introduced a studio without boarders. A community of designers from around the world, checking in at every hour of the day and night. The first 24 hour online design studio designing cars. When you join the LM design community your open to participating in competition with great cash prices, but even better is the opportunity to work on LM's Life build projects. Your input is valued and taken seriously. Your input may be visual or written. Many designers only dream to get their work noticed, but imagine getting the chance of getting your design built and production ready.

Only in our dreams?, No. Not if Local motors has their say. I has honored to have my design carried into LM's exclusive design process. Have to say it was kind of confusing at the begining, getting started. But as time went on i was so thrilled at how the LM design crew & LM stylist "Ben Messmer" directed the initial phase of the design process. The community came on board to help in fine tuning the idea to where it stands today. The Ex-Ta-C is the design am talking about and am glad to say is still in process awaiting more input from LM's fabulous design community and LM's intrepid design crew.

The only thing remaining for Local Motors to do is take time to make a reality show of their everyday operation. They have a large community who i believe would be their loyal viewing audience and we cant stop to think how many would be Rally fighter buyers are out there, ready to live out their rally fantasies, if only they saw the work commitment Local Motors placed behind doing what they do best. Design must have cars, driven by design.

Me2 signing out, Local always."

Bravo Me2, Wow Community. We could not have planted a site in a more fluid dynamic process to find this type of incredible community involvement. As always, I am humbled.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Word is taking root

Today I heard from three different touch points who have been following the Local Motors story without our ever knowing them or contacting them in the past. Check it out!

D2E - Down to Earth ("D2E") is a Boston Area Conference held at the Hynes Convention Center in the Spring. It hosts all things for a sustainable life. This year they are featuring a main panel on sustainable automotive, and the organizers reached out to their network to solicit names of those that they thought ought to be invited. As it turns out, the most popular name that kept coming up was Local Motors...and this recommendation from people whom I have never met or contacted in the past. I have agreed to be a panelist on Sunday April 5th at 1130 in the Main Hall. (Announcement is forthcoming on the D2E website).

New England Business Bulletin - A man, whom I did not know, walked up to me at my church and handed me a paper. He said, "when I read the story, I thought 'I think that is the guy I have seen at church....and it WAS! Here is the paper, I saved it for you'" So Cool, that I have such considerate fellow town members. Even more cool that they remember Local Motors.

Achates Power - This one really blows me away. A man who founded this revolutionary new diesel combustion company in San Diego, was learning about Local Motors and recognized that he knew my Mother from 40 years ago when she was living in Key West and working at a Naval Ordinance Unit. We had been following Achates ourselves and wondering when we would have a good opportunity to get introduced to the founding team.....guess that took care of itself! He just reached out to me through my mother, and we are going to meet on my next trip to San Diego.

It is a small world after all, and we are eternally grateful for the magical word "of mouth" that has been passing on our message.

Hope to see you all in a Rally Fighter come the Fall.

2am and The Feds are pounding on my head

It is 2am, and I have been working all weekend on the Federal Application for the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVMLP). This would be my 14th weekend slaving away on this document trying to cross all of the "t's" and dot all of the "i's" in an environment of huge variability with shifting partnerships and changing costs.

Some day this application will be submitted and I will be able to return to a normal existence. I almost do not remember what that is like.

This usage of time is an important lesson to remember when we think about the difference between raising money from private individuals and the government. In this age of increasingly involved government, we will more and more be called upon to raise funds from the feds. The good news is that the government is usually more out front about its criteria, but on the flip side it is notoriously byzantine in the various details that it might require.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Huge Step Forward in Car Development

Today the Local Motors community tied together the interior and exterior of the Rally Fighter with the designation of a Champion in its first ever interior contest. Let's get this straight and clear:

1) The community voted Sangho Kim's car as a fantastic concept.

2) Sangho, the community, and LM took that inspiration and developed the Rally Fighter.

3) Local Motors is developing the Rally Fighter according to that design.

4) The Community has developed body refinements, taillights, front grill, headlights, colors, wheel choice, engine ideas, side vents, and so much more. Now in a momentous step forward, the community has competed outright in a contest to design an interior for the Rally Fighter. The goal of this contest was not only to meet the inspiration requirement but also to achieve the cost and buildability needs to get the Rally Fighter to market on time and on budget.

The result was a sketch of carefully balanced proportions and materials to meet all of the deliverables and to steal the community's heart away for an interior.











(Mihai Panaitescu's InteriorCONCEPT for the LM Rally Fighter)

This was fast, this was intergral, this was the right way to choose a great design, and this was a first. FIRST.

Bravo LM'rs worldwide. You should be most proud.

Congratulations Mihai, NimCo, Y-One and all of the other participants. You have made history.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Can the old world of Torino Car Design meet the new world of Open Source? Maybe.

For those of you who don't know of Jason Castriota, he is the "creative" behind the heralded Maserati Birdcage and the Ferrari P4/5 for American car collector James Glickenhaus - all under Ken Okuyama at Pininfarina. Jason is an incredibly talented young designer who dropped out of Art Center College of Design (ACCD) to work in Turin for Okuyama (who was formerly his instructor at ACCD).


















The Birdcage

(http://korsan.org)



















The P4/5

(http://4.bp.blogspot.com)

And then, if there ever was a Cinderella Story in ancient and mystical world of Torino and the annals of famed car design, Lilli Bertone, widow of Nuccio Bertone and current head of Stile Bertone, has just announced that Jason is to be the new Design Director of the storied Turin-based, Stile Bertone.

Congratulations Jason.

Here is a video detailing his thoughts on his new position.



One interesting note is that despite the Top Secret world of Turin and Stile Bertone, the new website for the new car, Project M, is looking very open sourcey! Say it isn't so. I am amazed and excited to see the new world of wide open, meet the old world of closed.

http://www.insideprojectm.com/

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to launch a car model...Like a Paint Brush ?!

If you haven't seen this yet, I recommend taking a look at the introduction of the new BMW Z4 Roadster.

The campaign is captivating. Though he is now gone to his villa in Italy, Chris Bangle has his hand prints all over this. He said many times in recent years that cars have become constrained by convention and he ought to be working to rethink the way they were perceived/conceived by us - the humans who create and enjoy them.

Though this video sneak peak is still a hunk of metal and rubber built in the same way that BMW has been making cars for 40 years, the ballet choreography is uplifting. Perhaps it is an glimpse of things to come in the car world - a growing room for style and expression beyond the tyranny of electronics, features, and performance stats.

Enjoy and Bravo to whomever dreamed up this marvelous event.

http://www.expressionofjoy.com/


(sorry for making you click through, there was no embedded video to be placed straight into the blog)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Raising the ethical bar in the community

It occurs to me that when the web first started multiplying into a vast network of anonymous users that there was a time when accountability was weak and behavior could slide into mis-behavior without ever being noticed. Soon though, the web developed searching and sorting functions that allowed groups to aggregate. This was the beginning - thankfully - of accountability. Now, with increasingly robust tools for user feedback (the basis of Web 2.0), it is even more possible to hold anyone and everyone in a given community to account. Ever hear of how a seemingly harmless Facebook photo can become a liability in an interview?

In a very natural way, it appears that size is self-limiting and that we have created a parallel universe of society on the web where community has finally developed and many rules that reflect our values and ethics have begun to build. The process is by no means complete (nor is it in real life, for that matter), but what I mean to say is that the process does not yet equate to our most well-established practices in the parallel worlds of physical community.

Take, for example, an incident that happened last week within our very own LM community. A member, and very talented designer, posted a work that was deeply derivative of another designer's earlier work. No credit was given, though when confronted, the posting designer immediately ackowledged the earlier work. This is really quite an amazing turn of events on two levels. First it is amazing that we would find such behavior in a competition, and second it is amazing that the original designer himself discovered the derivative work and wrote the Company to alert us within hours of the posting.

What all this means is that our community has begun to police itself, and it is left to us to establish the basic standards of practice by which that policing takes place. We could look to domestic or international law, but in cases of design protection, we have found that the precedent is weak and that the standard really places the onus on the original designer to prove copright infringement.

Since the Local Motors community has already become a recognized force for design creativity and a collaborative hotbed of ideas, it is critical that we lead the way in setting a standard that places a high bar on ethical behavior. For this reason, we have drafted the following policy to support or future actions in the community. I hope that you will read it and share it.

Review Process for Unethical or Offensive Behavior
Within the Local Motors Community

"Though rare, Local Motors recognizes that in certain occasions the use of work or the comments or the images on the Local Motors website can be a tool for someone to behave in an unethical, offensive, or injurious manner. In many cases, even this behavior is misunderstood or mislabeled and can be cleared up with a frank discussion. Unfortunately, there are times where the behavior is deliberate and inexcusable and requires swift action. This policy is meant to deal with identifying and remedying those situations.

As would be expected, anyone is welcome to report suspect behavior at any time. The normal method of report would be an email to support@local-motors.com, but reaching out to any Local Motors team member is also encouraged.

Once a report has been made, designs or other material in question should be sent to Local Motors (LM) for review. If the questionable material is a design, then the LM design team will likely take the lead in reviewing the suspected offense. LM will then reach out to the offending member(s) if he/she/they can be reached and ask them to respond to the allegations. If it is judged in Local Motors sole discretion, in accordance with the site usage policies, that some, one, or all of the offending members are responsible for the offense, then Local Motors will retain the option to notify all involved parties, to remove the offending work, and to bar the offending member(s) from the Local Motors site for any given term.

If a designer who has been removed from the Local Motors site for offending behavior chooses to participate within the community under a different name, and without permission, then he/she could be banned from the site in perpetuity.

These rules are in place to protect individual designers within the Local Motors community and in the design industry at large. These consequences are easily avoidable. Local Motors seeks to uphold the same moral rectitude within the community as is upheld within the Company and all schools and universities.

It should go without saying, but we will say it here to be clear: Do NOT steal, cheat, plagiarize, write injurious comments, post injurious images, or claim work as your own if it does not belong to you."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Let's take a moment to collect ourselves as Americans and "Cowboy Up"!

Every so often, this blog zooms out a little from the micro auto picture and looks at some larger trends affecting the industry and the nation. This is one of those posts, and it is quite timely as we clearly have some work to do as a country.

This week on Venezuelan State Television (or should we say Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela State Television), the socialist dictator, Hugo Chavez, declared that it was clearly time for the US to join Venezuela in socialism by saying the following:

“It’s regrettable the crisis that the U.S. is living through. Millions of workers are being left in the street, thousands of companies are closing, in the U.S. there isn’t a single new infrastructure project. Go look for a highway there, the country has gone bust.”

“Now President Obama arrived with some announcements, hopefully, but the capitalist model and its perverse values have failed.”

“I recommend to Obama -- they’re criticizing him because they say he’s moving towards socialism -- come Obama, ally with us on the path to socialism, it’s the only road.”

“Imagine a socialist revolution in the U.S. Nothing is impossible.”

(source: Bloomberg Caracas)

Mr. Chavez your notion is pithy, but ridiculous. Let's look at some some facts. As America faces its highest unemployment in over 25 years at 8.3% Venezuela is coming in at its lowest ever at about 9.1%. Is that a model to be envied? And then let's look at why Venezuela is at its own historic unemployment low. Venezuela's economy is dominated by petroleum, as oil accounts for one third of GDP, around 80% of exports, and more than half of government revenues. And, last I checked, oil prices have been fairly good. However, taking a quick look at history, say during the late 80's, when oil prices took a dive, so did the Venezuela economy, which went into crisis in that time period.

Venezuela is a one trick economic pony, and that pony is oil. Her economy has had no diversification under Mr. Chavez' rule because there is no incentive to change. Don't forget Venezuela suffers from one of the worst cases of Dutch Disease and as yet, you have no cure. Meanwhile the US economy has continued to reinvent itself time and time again. Agriculture, textiles, petroleum, steel, automotive, education, software, micro-electronics, and services. And why? Because there is freedom of choice and incentive loaded in.

Mr. Chavez, you are hanging on by a thread because we have chosen to drive cars that have combustion engines. Forget all the planes, buses, heaters, and generators, without gas powered cars, oil prices are toast. We are one Capitalist innovator away from putting you out of business, and I guarantee that there are millions of us going to work every day with that single goal - to innovate out of the current automotive economy. If it were a horse race between you and us, I would bet on the country whose capitalist innovators brought you the cotton gin, the radio, the light bulb, the automobile, the nuclear bomb, the DOS operating system, the integrated circuit...need I go on.

No, that is all for the pesky Mr. Chavez.

Meanwhile, I have a note for American companies, entrepreneurs, and financiers.

"Now is the time."

While a bandito like Chavez is crowing on his oil-slick mountain top, we ought to be getting about our business of reinventing him out of business.

Time to stop watching your stock portfolio.

Time to stop waiting for a handout from Washington.

Time to stop blaming Madoff.

Time to stop letting go of your innovators.

Time to stop hoarding your cash.

Time to stop investing in middle market business at the expense of your early-stage allocation.

Cowboy up, and let's show this Venezuelan turkey, how a business and a nation ought to be run.

We are starting right here with Local Motors.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A visual Rally Fighter feast

In the last week Aurel has thrown down the gauntlet in the livery department.

Liveries are another word for the graphic covering of a vehicle (bus, car, plane, etc) and they often connote wild and crazy designs.

In this case, the Rally Fighter has been personalized for some of the folks at LM and that is only the beginning. In the future we will be allowing customers to run their own competitions to get a Rally Fighter customized....WHOAAAA!

Don't forget, you heard it here first. You can order your custom design even before you've placed your order for a Rally Fighter, so that you can put the resulting winner on your wall and stare at it every night.... Until your Rally Fighter is born.....then you can stare at that :)










(Sangho Kim's Rally Fighter, Rendered by Aurel, for himself)













(Sangho Kim's Rally Fighter, Rendered by Aurel, for Tim)













(Sangho Kim's Rally Fighter, Rendered by Aurel, for Mike)













(Sangho Kim's Rally Fighter, Rendered by Aurel, for Jay)













(Sangho Kim's Rally Fighter, Rendered by Aurel, for Dave)













(Sangho Kim's Rally Fighter, Rendered by Aurel, for Ben)












(Sangho Kim's Rally Fighter, Rendered by Aurel, for Karin)













(Sangho Kim's Rally Fighter, Rendered by Aurel, for Ari)




What will yours look like?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Another First from Local Motors - The Video Blog

Checkout our first in house Video Blog Production featuring rare glimpses of our recent tour of Phoenix, AZ.

Great trip, Great town, Great home for a stable of Rally Fighters and some other LM vehicles.

Enjoy and let us know if you like the Video Blogs. We will share more if we get good feedback :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A very cool note on Distributed Team Connectivity

On last Thursday, I blogged briefly about Peggy Noonan's OpEd wherein she opines for the days of entrepreneurial optimism and the death-defying Tech growth of the 90's. Today, I had my own Noonan moment where I reflected on how far we have really come. Here's what happenned.

I was on my way this morning to a couple of meetings in Boston, when it was time for our Local Motors' semi-weekly stand-up. This regular meeting is like a modern-day Staff Meeting where virtual donuts are served, red staplers are passed around, and all sorts of juicy details are shared from one "department to another".


















(http://1001resepi.com)




















(http://i.treehugger.com)











(http://assets.hulu.com)


In all seriousness, these meetings are a valuable part of our maintaining situational awareness amongst a team that is necessarily spread way out.

What left me struck in amazement this morning was how seemlessly it went and yet how technically intensive it was. At 945am, I called on my blue-tooth enabled cell phone from my car travelling north on I-93 into a Skype patch to our CIO in Marblehead. While he skype-conferenced our developer in Nagoya Japan (at 1145pm his time), I teleconferenced our designer in Los Angeles (645am! for him :()) and our engineering and finance teams in Wareham. Within seconds we were all on the same net, talking to each other and working on the business of Local Motors. No dropped calls, no lost intent, 29mins 35secs of pure amazement and simple business.

If you feel like the economy is giving up all the gains we have worked for in the past 13 years. Think again. Those tools we built are only just coming home to roost.

Monday, March 2, 2009

ONE More Day to submit Rally Fighter Interiors

This is a new kind of competition for Local Motors and one which has already drawn some of the most technical and expert designs that our community has ever seen.

Maintaining proportion and perspective in such a tight environment is a great challenge and one that that is a specific love to a select group of members of the community. It is such a pleasure to see each participant cut their teeth on this project and project a vision for the RF.

I encourage you to come and to vote and comment on this exceptional field of work.

Find them at the LM Competition homepage.

Here is one of the latest entries by aeolus..... the RF-51!










Aeolus, a third place finisher in the LM Side Vent Comp, presents his RF-51 Interior vision.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thoughts on pricing discipline in must-have cars

How much did you pay for your car?

If you bought it new, I guarantee the price you paid was not the one on the sticker.

In 1985, Saturn Motors Corporation, a mostly autonomous division of General Motors introduced a new kind of automotive experience. Some of the tenets of Saturn's brand launch were:

- an easily changeable body shape due to plastic body panels,
- a company owned dealership where every buyer was cheered when he bought a car
- a single factory where people could visit and tour if they were customers
- an annual summer picnic for all owners, and
- fixed price (aka "no-haggle" pricing)

This last one is the subject of tonight's blog.

Why is it that you pay a SINGLE, sticker-advertised, fixed price for an ipod at the Apple Store or a used car at CarMax, but with new cars it is always negotiable?



















(http://theresaneil.files.wordpress.com)

















(http://wiredblogs.typepad.com)

People have answered this question with varying reasons for years, but my opinion is that "competition between sellers" is the reason why new car prices are negotiable.

Dealers compete to get your business. Period.

MSRP - Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price - is just that..... Suggested. With scarce, popular cars, pricing of a model may seem like a unified front, but even in those cases, you can usually look far and wide enough and find a dealer willing to do better than another in order to get your business.
















(http://www.corvetteblogger.com)

Dealers compete to get your business. Period.

This is why Saturn had it right. Own the dealerships and set the price.

Sounds easy right? Well, it is really, except for the capital and people necessary to "own" all of those dealerships. All that stuff costs time and money; so if you need to grow fast in order to support the scale of your operations, then you need to find a way to enlist huge amounts of help. That is why franchises can work so well. They encourage a person to share in the growth of a business in return for that franchisee taking the risk to set up a branded dealership. But given a choice wherein I could grow a business profitably in doing so, I would always choose to own my own path to market as a business because you can protect the product, the brand and the profit margin much better.

Time for a real life example.


















(http://www.netcarshow.com/audi)

A friend of mine from California recently bought a new Audi. She was deeply excited about the new S5 (see above), and wanted one badly....Can't say I blame her, right? This is a sexy coupe compared to the competition. She asked for my help - as many of my car-buying friends have lately - in finding a way to get the best deal. I gave her some tips and even introduced her to some folks whom I thought could help her. For the first week of calling around, she got the same answer that this "exciting car could be had for MSRP". But with just a little bit of stick-to-it-iveness, she began to uncover some deals, which then lead to more deals, and before long, dealers who had earlier quoted her MSRP as "their final offer" were now willing to go as low as anyone else to get her business. After the purchase (at a significant discount to MSRP), I called her to ask one key question: "If every dealer had quoted you MSRP, without a discount, would you have bought the same car?" And she said, without much thought.....

"Yes."

All that time and effort that Audi took to make the S5 a must-have product for my friend, and then the dealers collectively stole it away. There is a valuable piece of profit that Audi will never see again.

The moral of the story: Make a must-have product then price with discipline.