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All images courtesy of Local Motors Inc.
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Local Motors Interview

Local Motors is a relatively new American car company and design community, but one which has grown very popular very quickly. Local Motors is more than just a place to give and receive feedback on your design ideas. It is a whole new idea in designing cars, and one that offers the chance of seeing your sketches becoming reality! In this interview CEO Jay Rogers explains his ideas behind the company and community, as well as explaining why you should become involved.

Hi Jay, can you first tell us a little about your background. Why did you decide to start Local Motors, and what is the purpose of the company and community?

In some ways I have been working on LM, since I was a boy. I’ve always loved cars, and I grew up with a heritage in the auto industry. My Grandfather was the largest distributor of Cummins Diesel Engines during his time, and he was also the owner of Indian Motorcycles for a time.

I didn’t find my purpose in the auto industry until years later. I decided to start LM when I was a Marine in Iraq. 2 of my friends in the Corps had been killed, and I wanted to do something to keep that from happening to others. Without a struggle for oil there would be far less bloodshed.

I wanted badly to use my skills to make the biggest difference, to help reduce our nation’s dependency on foreign oil. I was an entrepreneur, investor, leader, and car enthusiast. What else do you do with that background? Then some of the largest auto companies were having trouble, so it seemed that the timing for a new company in the market matched with my skills.

The purpose of the company is to create a revolutionary new Car Company that is sustainable. Sustainable to me means long-term profitability while remaining mindful of effects on both society and environment. The company is made up of three primary elements: Community, Micro-Factory Retailing, and Ownership Experience. For us, customer and community satisfaction is the foundation of sustainability; these are the folks who inspire us, work with us, buy from us, live by us and challenge us to be the best on a daily basis.

The purpose of the community is to tackle the single greatest problem of all companies, especially start-ups: Knowing your customer. Bill Joy is credited with saying “where ever you work, the smartest people in your industry, don’t work with you.” We started the creation of community so that we could engage and learn from our customers and our industry in a very humble and real-time fashion.

What are your long term ambitions with the company and community?

I would like to create the most successful auto company in the next 100 years. We will not be the only company (there will still be the big players, but they will serve a different niche). Our success will be measured if our community is thriving, if we have profitable micro-factories, and our customers look at cars with a greater feeling of attachment and involvement.

If we are successful, it will be because of our community, and I want to build a temple (many in fact) across the world dedicated to their passion. Cars. That temple will be the Local Motors Micro-Factory.

Can you explain how and why you think students of design should become involved in the community?

Students of design (I assume you mean design on the aesthetic side more than engineering design) become involved for many reasons, but perhaps chief among them is to share, compare, and improve their skills. How they do it is easy. Post up work, look at others, and dive in.

Apart from the obvious kudos involved with having a your design on the road, will designers be paid for their work?

Yes. Money and fame are richly deserved. So will the engineers, the finance managers, the marketers, the techies, the fabricators, and many others. It takes a family to build an innovative car. But in the end, all of us will rally behind a design, and the designers name will be forever associated with the vehicle. The designer will also be paid in the one-of-a-kind education that he will receive.

The idea of crowdsourcing design is an interesting one, but one that might sound a little too close to design by committee…and subsequently diluted design solutions. How do you deal with this?

We don’t. We don’t do design by committee. Our community chooses the best design from the best designer. If anything needs to be fixed adjusted or helped, then we can, and do, enlist the community; but the designer is pre-eminent.

What benefits have you seen from the community design approach?

It is incomparable. Better ideas, More ideas, Faster ideas, More critique, More praise, More Knowledge-and that is the ultimate goal for the community, the customers and the Company.

How do you see the community (crowdsourcing) design approach developing as your company grows? Do you foresee hiring more in house designers to productionize the designs for example?

To a degree, the team will need to grow to support the size of the community. But the biggest change will be in the community itself. It is already made up of designers, enthusiasts, and engineers. The enthusiasts/customers will dominate eventually. Our challenge is to make everyone’s voice heard proportionately. We sample 1000’s of people now, in the future we will sample 10’s of millions…in the not too distant future.

If and when it came to hiring new designers, would you consider an individual who was obviously talented (high design sketching and rendering abilities for example) but who had no formal qualifications in design?

YES. The community doesn’t care if the skill is there. Our team requires a balance of trained skill, pure talent, and passion. Passion is non-negotiable.

A brief look around the online community reveals a high quality of sketching skills…have you been tempted to put pen to paper yourself?

Every day. I was personally responsible for pushing the Aviary tool to be put on the site because I wanted to promote contribution from everyone. I have learned so much. In order to grow, humble contribution is necessary. I am not excluded and participate regularly.

What can we expect to see from Local Motors in the next month and in the next year?

In the next month you will see a new competition; a challenge to design an Electric Shooting-Brake for San Francisco. You may also see new challenges hosted by non-LM companies; companies with excellent innovations in efficient technology, with a need for car design styling. We want to support companies who are aiming to advance the auto industry, and our community wants to participate as well.

In the next year you will see a Rally Fighter drive cross-country, from Boston to Vegas in order to meet community, fans and press at SEMA in November. You will begin to see Rally Fighters on the road as customers drive them home.

You will see a new LM Phoenix Micro-Factory in progress, and you might even see another (to be announced). You will learn about the next LM cars to be built-but it’s not too late to help choose.

Finally what simple piece of advice would you give to those hoping to make a career in automotive design?

Never give up on your dreams. Be humble. Take action.

For more information about Local Motors, and how you can become involved visit,

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page last updated; 2014-06-15
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