Local Motors is looking to shake up the whole way the car industry works, from manufacturing and distribution to the buying and ownership experience, as its printed Strati exemplifies.
For openers, design work for the Strati 3D-printed car it showed at this week's SEMA aftermarket auto show in Las Vegas began in April and was finalized in September. (Photos from last month's IMTS event in Chicago.) The example sitting on the Vegas show floor was built in two days. And another one was being cranked out at the show as this was written, in a glass-walled booth where attendees could watch it happen.
That's a whole lot faster than the typical five-year gestation period required for a typical car redesign to go from conception to showroom, a process that can take even longer for a truly all-new model.
The fledgling carmaker says the Strati will be landing in driveways sometime in 2015, crash tested, emissions compliant, legal, and ready to go. That will be quite a feat if Local Motors can pull it off, especially at a projected cost between $18,000 and $30,000.
But the company doesn't think of itself as a carmaker. It says it's a technology company that builds cars, with a development cycle to match. Its plan is to be able to crank out updates and refinements to the design in a matter of months, rather than years. Owners will be able to update their cars with those improvements when possible, or just trade in the whole thing for a replacement at a fraction of the cost of a new model. The old one then would be recycled into the latest generation.
The "local" part of Local Motors is its vision of building cars tailored to where they are used. Sunny climes could save cost by leaving off a hard top, while urban areas could get a shorter, easier-to-park version. Powertrain choices could include electric, gasoline, or diesel. Further, the cars could be produced close to the targeted market, yet still be based on a design that meets safety, emissions, and other federal requirements.
Welcome to the future.