Local Motors: a business model of our times

December 1st, 2009
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Local Motors: the car the people built Online and Offline

Recently I wrote a series of posts called Commonwealth in the Networked Society. There was one on Big Pharma and open source, one on open source mobility run from the University of Rotterdam called c,mm,n, and one on a company called Local Motors. I picked up a story published in the Sunday Times this week on Local Motors.

And I felt I had to put a few things straight, as the article focus’s on the hysteria around twitter / social meeeedija without offering up some of the more particular insights that makes the Local Motors concept so important. Something that Lord Mandleson might want to consider?

The Local Motors story is enthralling from start to finish:

For example, the story of Jay Rogers whose Grandfather owned the Indian Motorcycle company, then as a consequence of being a Marine for nine years, and watching America’s addiction to oil, Jay felt compelled to find a more sustainable method of building cars and then pulling together a methodology that is a business and marketing model of our times.

These are some of the key points…

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We slept like a common whore with the devil lusting for oil: Noam Chomsky

 

Local Motors fundamentally changes the relationship to supply and demand

Local Motors utilises a distributed knowledge network which is both Hyperlocal and Superglobal – a beautiful blend of online and offline. Something that the news article singularly fails to convey…

At Local Motors, Open Source and Creative Commons are not dirty words. In one year 44,000 designs were submitted to Local Motors, and 3600 innovators have shared their knowledge and insights.

Cars are developed 5x faster than traditional cars, and with more than 100x less capital. ‘You can’t be nimble,’ says Jay, ‘if you have to tool big’

The use of Micro-Factories which provide an engaged experience for customers to come together, learn about cars, build their own Local Motors car.

But Jay also makes the point that Micro factories redistribute wealth into communities around the country rather than building supertanker factories. This is very interesting, especially as in the next decade we need to be radical about power; realistic about money; and relentless on innovation without using the gargantuan sums of money previously spent in the past.

Ariel Ferreira, in an interview with the Sunday Times this week said, The experience is going to change the face of the auto industry, the process of building the car is going to become almost as important as the product itself.

Moreover it is this ability to allow knowledge and information to flow online and off, to co-create; meaning, deep context, and to share economically that are some of the clear pointers to what networked economics is all about. It was Kevin Kelly In his book Out of Control that described a world of co-evolved customers and here we are. So markets are conversations, business is a conversation, marketing is a conversation, these things bust silo mentality.

Compare that to the debacle of the NHS IT system, its gigantian cost and its epic failure, or the myopic focus on targets where hospitals have to fit people around systems that will ultimately fail. The flexible economics of networked co-creation far outweigh  the unwieldy nature of Too Big To Fail.

What we need is a better process. In Communities Dominate Brands I described a model that I described as the 4C’s:

[1] Commerce [2] Culture [3] Community [4] Connectivity.

It is when these four separate stands become tightly interwoven that interesting things happen. Again a blended reality, rather than a siloed one – surely Local Motors lives up to that idea. Moreover, I think it was Marshall McLuhan who wrote, that  a medium of communication is not merely a passive conduit for the transmission of information but rather an active force in creating new social patterns and new perceptual realities.

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