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Page added on October 30, 2009

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Local Motors: A New Kind of Car Company

When John B. Rogers was a Marine deployed in Iraq in 2004, he brought a book called Winning the Oil Endgame with him to the Gulf. The book, by environmental activist Amory B. Lovins, discusses how people can end their dependence on fossil fuels. Rogers says reading the volume inspired him to create a new type of car company, one he believes offers a more efficient and effective way of designing, manufacturing, and selling autos.

“I realized it was possible to run an environmentally focused car company in different ways,” he says. Most of today’s auto entrepreneurs, such as Tesla Motors and A Better Place, focus on alternative fuel sources. But Rogers looked at another way of building a sustainable car business. He imagined he could produce vehicles locally and on demand at “micro-factories,” where buyers could watch and even participate in making the car. This would eliminate wasting resources on mass-producing and shipping cars that might sit unbought on a car dealer’s lot. More than that, he wanted to source “dream car” concepts direct from potential buyers, rather than to dictate designs, as the major automakers do.

Having left active duty in the Marines in 2005, Rogers headed to Harvard Business School to study for an MBA and learn how to make his dream a reality. After raising $4 million from unnamed private investors, Local Motors made its official debut in March 2008, with a Web site that calls for designers to submit sketches of their dream cars. Contributors can also enter competitions to come up with ideas for a specific type of vehicle, such as an electric car for the eco-conscious San Francisco Bay Area. The site’s online community votes on the designs, with winners chosen by the audience, not Local Motors’ employees. Cash prizes range from $1,500 to $20,000, with over $30,000 awarded to date.


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