Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Concept Behind The Concept

After speaking with a consultant about the Federalization Process and how it relates to development and manufacturing of a vehicle, I began to think about how smaller companies such as ours have accomplished the process. In most cases, a consultant was hired or someone was contracted outside of the company to do the work.

Here's one example:

Tesla Motors

For much of the styling, Tesla contracted Lotus Engineering (upon winning the design competition that was held for the styling contract). As you can easily imagine (or have seen by now), the winning design was based on Lotus' highly popular sports car, the Elise. Although the body parts and the chassis do not come directly from the Elise, they are based on them and made by the same suppliers. Lotus also manufactures the production Tesla Roadster in its plant in England.

Tesla Roadster (Courtesy, snarkf.info)

Rather than focusing their efforts on the entire design of the car, Tesla's core competency is in the drive train technology, so for the rest of the vehicle design and manufacturing, they have contracted those abilities to other companies with those ideals germane to their expertise.

Mac Powell, Tesla Motors VP of Vehicle Integration, stated in the Lotus Engineering Newsletter, proActive,

"Having chosen to work with Lotus as the contract manufacturer, we decided that there was no point in reinventing the wheel. We're using the Elise structural concept, so anything we can carry over from the Elise makes a lot of sense. We at Tesla have enough to worry about with the new technology, without having to also worry about a lot of the other stuff that goes into making a car." (Courtesy, Teslamotors.com)


Lotus Elise (Courtesy, myride.com)

This is very different from the approach that we will take at Local Motors. Since education is one of the cornerstones here, we plan to keep the context of both design and manufacturing in our house. We need to educate ourselves and our customers along the way. This means having a very intimate knowledge of the technology and processes we use to develop and manufacture our vehicles.

Knowledge of such is our core competency, not just the concept behind the concept [vehicle].

Therefore, as we travel down the path of development, if there is something that isn't core to our current abilities, we will have to assess the technology, the associated learning curve, the cost to ramp up this curve, is it best to take training courses, or bring IN someone that has traversed that curve and can provide on the job training (so we can still meet our time line to production of the first prototype)? Sure, we could just hire someone to do it as some other companies have, but we put greater value on our own education as well as that of our customers. Simply stated, knowing how to educate ourselves and our customers will be necessary in effectively designing AND manufacturing our vehicles...

Yet another example of what will differentiate Local Motors from those that have traveled this path only to meet a premature ending.

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