How The Internet Built A $100,000 Race Car

By: Posted By Jovarie Downing
By: Posted By Jovarie Downing

Austin, Texas (CNN) -- With its orange paint, muscular look and mounted steer horns, an unusual race car has been turning heads on the streets of this capital city.

But that's not even the most interesting thing about it.

This is a Rally Fighter, believed to be the first production vehicle to be designed through crowdsourcing, the process of drawing input from a global community of interested people via the Internet.

"If Henry Ford had had Twitter and Internet access, he surely would have made his automobiles in a very different way," said John B. Rogers, president and co-founder of Local Motors, the Arizona car maker that built the Rally Fighter. The company's slogan: "Made by you in America."

The Rally Fighter is built for speed but has five-point seat belts, not air bags.Rogers spoke at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin on the use of crowdsourcing to make the best possible automobile in the cheapest and most efficient way.

Local Motors claims that its Rally Fighter is the first vehicle in the world to be created following this principle. Rogers said it was produced in 18 months, about five times faster than through conventional processes.

The design was chosen through a 2009 vote by a community of hundreds of people on the Internet. The winning design was submitted by Sangho Kim of Pasadena, California, and the result is a car with a 6.2-liter engine, eight cylinders, automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive and 430 horsepower. The Web community also participated in the design of several vehicle components, like the doors.

Local Motors says it spent $3 million on the car's development, much less than what is spent on commercial models by the major automakers. How did it achieve that? To Rogers, it was by rethinking the vehicle's features.

"It costs $10 to design a five-point seat belt like the Rally Fighter's, compared to the $6 million it takes to develop an airbag," Rogers said.

The price of the car includes a six-day stay at Local Motors' Arizona plant to build it.The price of this car is $99,900, which includes a six-day stay at Local Motors' Arizona plant -- to build the car.

You see, when someone buys a Rally Fighter, they don't get an assembled car but a kit. It includes detailed instructions in the form of manuals, wikis and YouTube how-to videos -- plus the support of Local Motors' experts.

Dozens of the cars have been sold, mostly in the U.S. and some in Kazakhstan, Russia and Great Britain, Rogers said. The goal is to sell 2,000 Rally Fighters before abandoning the model and starting work on a new one.

Founded five years ago, Local Motors is now home to more than 25,000 community members and 50 full-time employees.

Besides the Rally Fighter, the car maker is working on a prototype military vehicle -- the XC2v -- for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a research arm of the Pentagon.

Local Motors has also launched challenges to communally design the best pizza delivery vehicle and the best shoe for driving, projects requested by Dominos Pizza and Reebok.

Rogers said he also wants to build a crowdsourced motorcycle, a boat and a more affordable $10,000 car.


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