Automotive engineers and designers often have trouble seeing eye-to-eye. Artists rarely sip coffee with scientists, and jocks never sit at lunch tables with the nerds. It’s stereotypical, but it’s difficult to deny. Local Motors, a Chandler-based vehicle company and think tank, is looking to change that.
Tribune Video: Local Motors develops the 'Rally Fighter' in Chandler
By bringing people from various backgrounds to work together, Local Motors has the ability to create a world of vehicle innovations.
With big car manufacturers like General Motors and Toyota, the division between engineers and designers is quite apparent. Extravagant and futuristic concept sketches of next-generation vehicles often generate “oohs and aahs” from the public, yet due to engineering constraints, the finished products retain little of the initial design that captivated consumers’ imaginations.
Certain design elements simply cannot translate into real life, and there is a massive waste of time and money as design moves from the drawing board to a working prototype.
By encouraging engineers, designers, and enthusiasts to collaborate on projects, Local Motors’ philosophy of open dialogue and transparency will revolutionize industries. It’s called “co-creation.” And it’s working.
Local Motors envisions a world where co-creation is the norm, not the exception.
Its mission is to create a global community of experts and enthusiasts, designers and engineers, to give birth to new ideas and vehicle innovations, and to change the way that vehicles are brought to market.
This global community is known as the Forge, an online collaboration of 30,000 members. It’s a place where individuals present ideas, share personal projects, give feedback, and submit design concepts. Local Motors projects are born from this community, shaped by consumer recommendations, and honed to perfection by the input of thousands.
Its first production vehicle, known as the Rally Fighter is quite literally (in more ways than one) made by you.
The Rally Fighter was brought into our world because consumers demanded it. Multiple designs were submitted and refined until one was chosen for production. Once the design was chosen, a working prototype was completed in a remarkably-short 13 months.
To date, around 50 Rally Fighters have been built out of a limited run of 2,000 cars.
In pictures, the car looks to be the offspring of a sports car and a monster truck, a sleek body with a gaping front grill, a World War II fighter plane-inspired cockpit, and knobby off-road tires. In person, the $99,000 Rally Fighter is more than impressive, and firing up the 6.2L V8 engine will make any car enthusiast giggle like an 8-year-old watching SpongeBob SquarePants. The car stands nearly six feet tall, has the creature comforts of a luxury vehicle, and performs equally well as both a daily driver and a hardcore desert drifter. With 430 horsepower on tap and 18 inches of front suspension travel, the Rally Fighter can conquer any terrain.
Companies like Porsche allow you to design and pick up your customized car directly from their factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Local Motors lets you do the same thing, except they take it one step further.
When you buy a Rally Fighter, they let you build part of it yourself right in their Chandler facility, located on Gila River Indian Community land near Interstate 10 and Wild Horse Pass Boulevard.
Never heard of a Phillips screwdriver before?
No worries. Each of Local Motor’s four build stations contain every tool needed for the job, and friendly technicians are there to help you every step of the way. Many of us don’t have the tools, time, space, or knowledge to build a car. Local Motors fills that gap. Rally Fighter is finished and ready to drive home after just six days, but you end up leaving the micro-factory with a whole lot more than an incredible and unique vehicle. People will inevitably ask, “What is that? Where did you get it?” You’ll be able to respond, “It’s a Rally Fighter, and I built it myself!”
But Local Motors isn’t just a car company; it’s a vehicle company. Their projects range from motorcycles and electric vehicles to designing the ultimate delivery vehicle for the Domino’s pizza chain.
What’s more, you’ll be hard pressed to find a company that gives back to the community it helped create like Local Motors does.
Aside from participating in the online Forge, local community members are encouraged to visit the micro-factory to help with projects, share their expertise, learn new skills, and promote innovation. Additionally, Local Motors opens their doors with open house events once a month, encouraging “random collisions” between people of all backgrounds, and even hosting autocross events in their massive parking lot. Sustainability is also a key component of their business model, and even the Rally Fighter is coated with a more eco-friendly vinyl rather than traditional paint.
Local Motors takes great pride in building quality vehicles and changing the way we think about transportation. Their push for community involvement, open dialogue, and sustainability makes them an incredible vehicle company.
But after meeting members of the Local Motors team and learning about their vision, it’s easy to see that people are their true passion, and as far as I’m concerned, investing in people is the smartest decision they could ever make.
A car guy through and through with a passion for virtually anything with wheels, Ryan Biggs brings his pop culture and technology expertise to the Tribune and Nerdvana (eastvalleytribune.com/nerdvana), the Tribune’s blog for technology, sci-fi, fantasy, TV, movies, comics, games and all things geek.