Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What is happenning with all the car startups? A Universal Roundup

The question is "What has happenned to all of the car startups in the last 20 years?"

My answer:

In short, this is a tough question, because many morphed, some have limped, and others have yet to meet any deciding point. It kind of depends what you want to hear. Anecdotally, there are many who have tried and "not succeeded" but really the number of failures is probably few especially in the past 20 years. Clearly the number of successes is also very very low. Perhaps Porsche is the greatest success from start to finish.

Failed -
Crosley (20's)
Tucker (late 40's)
Bricklin (70's)
Delorean (Early 80's)
Vector (late 80's)
Cunningham (late 90's) (but this never made it out of the embryonic design phase)

Then it gets more fuzzy:

Commuter Car Corporation of America (still sort of around)
Brammo Motorsports (started making cars and switched to electric motorbikes)
ZAP (had a lot of controversy for stock fraud, but still making 3 wheeled electric cars)

The rest are still very much around:
Tesla - Making 600 Cars in 2008
Persu (formerly Venture Vehicles - three wheelers that "carve")
Aptera (three wheelers that are highly aerodynamic) - available this Fall
Panoz - Making Cars for 15 years
Phoenix - Making Cars
Cirbin (three wheelers) - Making Cars
Mosler - Making Cars (only about 10-20 yr)
Noble - Making Cars
Caterham - Making Cars
Fisker - Available 2010
Th!nk (in bankruptcy but could be reborn) - Has made cars
Lotus - Making Cars for themselves and Others
Reva - Making Cars
Moteur (Compressed Air Car)
Spyker - Making small # of cars
Bristol - Making small # of cars
Gordon Murray - Great Design. Not producing yet.

I can probably think of more but this is a pretty comprehensive list of the most "well-known" startups (if you can call them that). There are many others (Zenn, Twike, Universal Electric, Velozzi, MIT VDI, Wrightspeed, Trident Iceni, Gibbs (amphibious), Terrafugia (roadable aircraft)), but they have been mainly ideas that never made it beyond the garage or are not really pure cars.

The array of names above is dizzying. With each: green is critical; design is a must; and cost is ever a focus. Almost without exception, however, each of these businesses above has banked on the car they make alone to carry the company to success, and they have accepted the traditional path to market (from company design to factory production to dealership with the customer only interacting tangentially at the end during the purchase). We, at Local Motors, feel that there is much to be gained in pricing power, trust, and improved product by bringing the customer in at each stage of the process. This is the difference of our design community, this is the difference of our micro-factories, this is the difference of going Local.


Oh, and here are the results from yesterday's blog: It appears that Design wins and Data loses (at least in our small sample set). Isn't that interesting? Thanks Ari and Winston for the great comments. I agree with the additions that each of you made.


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