When Jay Rogers returned to US soil in 2004 from a military tour in Iraq, he decided it was time for something outside the box. His motivation sparked the ultimate DIY idea: design and build your own car.
“I decided I had to do something with my life that was going to be worth remembering,” Rogers says. “Being a marine was a wonderful thing, but I wanted to build things and make things.”
In a few short years as co-founder and CEO of Local Motors, Rogers has fostered a community that loves to design, build, and create.
The premise of the company is ambitious yet straightforward: bring together a community of thousands of designers and engineers to crowdsource the design of a car. Then open the factory doors and let customers come in to build that car with help from the Local Motors team.
The company’s first car—the Rally Fighter—was the product of over 10,000 designs targeting offroading enthusiasts who wanted a customized, street-legal rally car in the Arizona desert. Since production began in November 2010, 25 Rally Fighters have been put on the road at USD 75,000 each, and 160 customers have put down deposits to build one.
“When we started with the Rally Fighter, nobody believed we could build a car, but we did it,” Rogers says.
The premise may be simple, but Local Motors takes the do-ityourself model to the next level. It leverages available expertise while allowing car enthusiasts to take their passion a step further by actually building something they will later drive.
The concept is also a reminder that DIY has limitations so long as the “Y” is restricted to only “yourself”. Relying on the expertise and creativity of a broader community puts the near-impossible within reach.
The concept skirts the complexity of building a car by employing factory staff to do the heavy lifting. This ensures that the end product meets quality and safety standards, while leaving enough on the customer’s to-do list to foster a sense of pride and engagement in the project. Customers join for three two-day weekends and bring helpers.
What’s next for Local Motors? A crowd-sourced electric vehicle, with a factory built wherever in the United States demand is highest. The team is also preparing for the release of affordable design software to make the process more accessible.
Leveraging new technology to provide a platform for engagement, the small company is growing while automobile makers in Detroit are notoriously struggling. Rogers envisions a revitalization of physical manufacturing in the United States.
“We want car design to be fun again,” he says. “The death of American automobile innovation began in 1908 with the invention of the mass assembly line. Now we’ve lost a generation of minds to video game design. We want the next generation to be more engaged in how a car is built.”
Crowdsourcing allows auto enthusiasts to pitch in their ideas, expertise, and sweat to build a car they can truly call their own.