Local Motors and the Future of Vehicle Manufacturing


Source: Saul Loeb/Getty Images

Source: Saul Loeb/Getty Images

Out under the scorching Arizona sun, the next evolution in entrepreneurship is taking form. A unique vehicle builder, Local Motors, is taking the sharing economy to a whole new level, along with a new and developing system of production. The company, based in Chandler, Arizona, has garnered enough attention to open its own retail stores, secure contracts with some of the world’s largest companies, and even get one of its vehicles into a big Hollywood movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction.

It’ll also be making an appearance in a new video game, and recently made an appearance on NBC’s Today Show for that matter.

So what is Local Motors doing that really sets it apart from the crowd? Well, the answer is just about everything. The company has managed to blend co-creation with the world of small-scale, micro-manufacturing to bring a whole new world of projects to life. One of the most popular of its products, an off-road rally car called the Rally Fighter, is the result of this system in which people from around the world collaborate on designs, and then Local Motors uses 3D printing technology, among other processes, to produce a finished product. By using a combination of crowdfunding and crowdsourced materials, Local Motors has been able to build a company that can set up shop literally almost anywhere, and produce products based on local tastes.

The idea of micro-manufacturing actually goes back to production changes made in Toyota plants, in which the auto maker implemented a “just-in-time” philosophy to improve efficiency and better pinpoint hiccups in the process. Now known as the Toyota Production System, the production setup can produce quality vehicles, one at a time, that fulfill the company’s stringent requirements. It’s the idea of building vehicles one at a time that was the key and the idea of manufacturing on a micro scale that have allowed companies like Local Motors to flourish.