In the digital age, even car designs can come from the power of the crowd.
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Since 2007, Phoenix, Arizona-based Local Motors has been crowdsourcing vehicle design online – and actually bringing cars to market. Using Local Motors’ online open-source platform, over 35,000 car and vehicle enthusiasts have worked together to develop innovative blueprints and manufacture vehicles at Local Motors’ three U.S. microfactories. Today, Local Motors is moving beyond the auto world – and into the kitchen. Last week, GE announced it will be partnering with Local Motors to debut a new manufacturing process harnessing the power of the crowd. “At GE over the past years, we’ve redefined our approach to innovation, focusing on R&D as well as co-creation, open collaboration and partnership, which has allowed us to engage new audiences and develop a following across various industry sectors,” said GE Executive Director of Global Innovation Steve Liguori. “Today, a new era of manufacturing is dawning—and with Local Motors, we are pioneering the future of work, fast tracking a new model for the manufacturing industry, and improving and expanding GE’s product offering to better meet future customer needs.” The new platform, called FirstBuild, will debut this summer. FirstBuild will initially focus on crowdsourcing new ideas for kitchen appliances, and GE and Local Motors are building a new micro-factory specifically for the FirstBuild community. Popular ideas will go into testing and small-batch production. “GE has demonstrated impressive leadership in its commitment to advanced manufacturing, lean business principles and the power of the crowd … Together, Local Motors and GE will provide a powerful platform to discover innovators and, in turn, make revolutionary new products available to consumers,” said Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers in a statement last week.How Local Motors’ Platform Works Local Motors takes its cues from the tech community, which has long used open-source platforms to get the crowd to work together on ideas. “We collaborate and design using the open Creative Commons model, where you are given attribution and ideas are shared,” says Rogers. All of the projects on the platform are non-commercial, until Local Motors decides to bring them to market through its micro-factories. If the vehicles sell, the participating designers receive a cut of the revenue, based on their contribution to the design. Rogers says Local Motors has sold 65 of its Rally Fighter cars, which retail for a cool $99,900.
Rogers says the FirstBuild platform will stay true to the Local Motors’ process. Participants will get credit for their ideas, and will profit from any sales. “It’s not the way GE has done business before, but it’s a great way to lead product development and a very bold way,” says Rogers. He first started working with GE on FirstBuild 18 months ago. Rogers would not disclose the terms of the relationship, but says GE has made a commitment to the project for many years. Local Motors has raised less than $15 million in funding from private investors, and Rogers says the company has doubled its revenue every year since launch.