Ford has been selling cars for more than a century and is still going strong, especially after an excellent 2012.But one person in the industry says the mass production model the automaker pioneered is on its last legs.
“Ford was a fad that came for a hundred years,” Jay Rogers says, “and now I believe it is going.”
Rogers is the head of Local Motors, the 40-employee company that is taking a new approach to designing vehicles: crowdsourcing.
Profiled in Playboy by Neal Gabler, Rogers is a Princeton-educated Marine Corps veteran, and wants to use the online community to design cars for niche markets.
So far, Local Motors has produced one car: the $75,000 Rally Fighter. The street legal ride gets 16 mpg and is made for off-roading. So far, 60 have been sold.
The Rally Fighter was designed by Sangho Kim, an art student in Pasadena, who received $10,000 for creating the design that is now in production. (It uses a Chevy engine.)
It’s a ridiculous vehicle that marks a new way of building cars: small-scale, designed by potential customers, and not reliant on massive production facilities that are expensive to change.
Rogers hopes the Rally Fighter will be the first in a line of crowdsourced cars catering to local markets (whence the name Local Motors) — different rides for Paris, New York, and Boston, among many.
Rogers’ business is more flexible than that of large-scale automakers, but he faces other challenges. Among them is the fact that Local Motors must rely on people who are not auto engineers to come up with cars that can be built.
Yet there are successful automakers who build small numbers of cars for niche markets: Rolls-Royce. Bugatti. McLaren. Their business models work because they charge so much for their products, they don’t need to sell them in large quantities.
Rogers hope to make cars for the people, by the people, is different, and more difficult to execute. But if it works, it could change the industry.