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If you sketch it, they will build:
Rally Fighter from Wareham

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  February 2, 2009 05:45 PM

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LocalMotors-Wareham-609.jpg(Steve Haines/Globe Staff)

Lots of car companies claim to build dream cars. Nearly every luxury and exotic car manufacturer has a department for special orders, and there's no shortage of tuners that turn these cars inside-out, but aside from Louis Vuitton seats and stainless steel hoods, there's not much original thought involved. Chinese brand BYD has the lofty phrase "Build Your Dreams" in its name, but its creations are nightmares. Even Tesla Motors can't climb its way out of a Lotus Elise.

Local Motors of Wareham, Mass., is building bespoke automobiles the old-fashioned way: take a sketch, bring the buyer into the shop at every step, and churn out a car that resembles no other set of wheels on earth. The company's website even invites designers to compete and submit drawings for potential production.

Globe reporter Emily Sweeney and photographer Steve Haines got a tour of the factory and its handsome Rally Fighter, above, which is an upscale Baja buggy that will cost $50,000 when it enters production this spring. Local Motors also has selected a wild design for a three-passenger electric vehicle, dubbed the "Boston Bullet".

It's certainly courageous of CEO John B. Rogers, Jr. - a retired Marine and Harvard Business School grad - to gather millions of dollars and pay 10 employees in these times. Give this man a nice federal loan - he'd deserve it.

All photos by Steve Haines/Globe Staff

LocalMotors-sketches.jpgA sketch of the final version of the Rally Fighter, center, is surrounded by previous mock-ups.

LocalMotors-shop.jpgJohn Rogers, Jr., CEO of Local Motors Inc, sits in a mock-up of the Rally Fighter on the floor of his garage.

LocalMotors-shop-close.jpgJohn Rogers, Jr. in the midst of the ribs of the Rally Fighter mock-up.

LocalMotors-shop-colby.jpg
Colby Whipple uses a hand held 3D scanner to scan a Ford axle that they will use in the Rally Fighter. Once scanned, it will be used in the computer so they can test various performance capabilities.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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13 comments so far...
  1. BYD has a very nice looking DM plug-in hybrid that will wipe up the floor
    with anything GM , Toyota or Honda puts out there to compete. They will crush those old fashioned companies.

    Posted by kerry bradshaw February 2, 09 07:18 PM
  1. Uh, Kerry....

    Build Your Dreams is where car designs go to die, but only after being horribly tortured for weeks. That plug-in hybrid, like most of the company's offerings, looks like it was designed as a middle-school class project. Calling it a piece of crap slanders crap.

    Chinese auto manufacturing is at least 10 years behind the rest of the world, which helps explain the hot sales of Buicks there. Even the sedans from Geely and Chery are just getting around to looking like 1999 Accords.

    Posted by Kinky-Hoffmeier February 2, 09 11:21 PM
  1. This article, and the comment from Kinky, are typical of the kneeejerk responses from ignorant people who know nothing of the industries or technologies involved.

    They remind me of the comments made about Japanese cars when they started to arrive in the West. Western auto engineers immediately recognised their efficient design and build quality, and therefore the threat they represented to existing mainstream manufacturers who had allowed standards to slip. Japanese cars made big inroads into the US and European markets until they now have a major share - all based on performance and quality.

    The BYD hybrid and elecric cars so far shown look just fine - not groundbreaking, but sensible, middle-of-the-road,practical cars much like any Western mass-production car. Name ANY small family car from any manufacturer, world-wide, which looks significantly better.

    How they perform is an unknown factor, yet to be demonstrated.

    To call them 'nightmares', as does the article, or 'crap' as does Kinky, is so far from the evident reality that it only demonstrates the ignorance and stupidity of the authors.

    Posted by Peter Lloyd February 3, 09 06:54 PM
  1. Excellent observation Peter. Indeed, the ignorance of many, not all, American consumers and Detroit leads us to where we are today. Back in the 70's, I recall the same type of remarks about Toyota and the Japanese not being able to build a car. It has taked 3 decades, but guess who is number 1. Detroit is in a deep slumber, a la Rip Van Winkle, and unless they wake-up, Asia will be where all the great cars are being dreamed, manufactured, and sold. Detroit still dreams of fossil fuels, Asia see's the promise of green energies and financial rewards.

    Posted by RHN February 3, 09 11:37 PM
  1. I rode in a Hyundai Sonata,what a nice car ,all they should do is create
    another division like Toyota did with Lexus,add a little more wood,navigation
    etc and do a P.R blitz Watch for The New Car on the Block "EXCEL", Take a test drive of the New Excel 400, you'll fall in love with a Beauty !

    Posted by Saul P Heller February 4, 09 01:35 PM
  1. Sorry Peter....that dog won't hunt.

    The BYD dual-mode hybrid looks fine only if you consciously decide to roll the aesthetic clock back 15 years -- and even then, you'd be in the company of the blandest, most pedestrian cars on the road.

    You said: "Name ANY small family car from any manufacturer, world-wide, which looks significantly better."

    I'll oblige: How about EVERY small family car from EVERY manufacturer, world-wide, looks significantly better....and that includes all models from the past decade (with the possible exception of the execrable Aztek). The BYD looks horrible, and that's being kind.

    Will Chinese cars get better? Of course. The first rounds of Toyotas and Datsuns to hit US shores were rust prone and had the build quality of lawn mowers; today they routinely top the JD Power quality rankings. Hyundai quality improvement has been nothing short of amazing, and the styling has kept pace (if being incredibly derivative of European styling). China just isn't in that league yet. Nearly every car I've seen has been an inelegant assemblage of styling cues stolen from a hodgepodge of various marques. The BYD isn't even that good...

    Posted by Anonymous February 4, 09 09:48 PM
  1. Anonymous -
    Your comments simply do not stand up to what can be easily seen from published pictures in the press and on the internet.

    The most readily available pictures of the BYD F3DM and F6DM show middle-of-the-road small family sedans which are almost identical to the 2009 Toyota Corolla. In fact, what small differences there are (e.g., grille shape) are a distinct improvement. Most family sedans around the world are currently built on the same neat , tidy and commercially successful design cliches, e.g., Volkswagen Jetta/Passat, Hyundai Sonata. They all feature a well raked windshield, teardrop wraparound headlamps, bodyline rising to the rear, high, cutaway minimal trunk line, minimally decorated grille treatment. In no way do the BYD designs look out of place in this line-up. A close study of the BYD photos shows close and even panel fits. If you cannot see this for yourself from published photos, I suggest an immediate visit to a good optometrist.

    The designs mentioned above are only one step behind the latest more aerodynamic styles like the new 2009 Honda Civic and Vauxhall (GM) Astra, which no doubt everyone will be copying next year - if they can afford. These will lead the next batch of "bland and pedestrian" cars - as all style innovations quickly become. That's inevitable - get used to it. Only Citroen can get away with real design individuality, which is why they do not sell in the USA (can you imagine Americans buying the Picasso in any numbers?)

    In no way are BYDs ANYTHING like the more squared-off, cutaway flat rear deck, bodyline-parallel-to-the-road designs of ten years ago, let alone fifteen. If you cannot see this for yourself, there is no point in discussing with you.

    Hondas, Toyotas and Datsuns NEVER had poor build quality - they made their inroads in highly competitive USA and EU markets BECAUSE their build quality was so superior to that of Western auto makers, who struggled very hard for years to try to match them - I know, I was there. Yes, the build quality was like a lawn mower, because Honda's lawnmowers had superb build quality - they still run after twenty five years! Prone to rust, yes, ALL cars were (except top line niche makes) because at that time sufficient bulk supplies of phosphate/zinc treated rolled steel at the right price were not available anywhere. I remember seeing a neighbour's new Cadillac on which the plastic imitation leather roof treatment had peeled back, revealing very rusty steel underneath!

    The only way to counter competition is to evaluate it objectively and recognise its strengths. You can't let patriotism cloud your judgement, or you will never respond successfully.


    Posted by Peter Lloyd February 5, 09 03:05 PM
  1. Another piece on these guys? Look at the pictures, these aren't car guys, they're computer guys in a college dorm. If they ever cobble together a bunch of assemblies and get something to run (by sending it out to a car guy), they'll learn they had the sales price's decimal point in the wrong place.


    Posted by BobbyHR-1 February 5, 09 09:22 PM
  1. Sorry Peter,
    We're have to agree to disagree on styling. Bland cars, like bland food, might be the staples of millions but neither is to be celebrated. (I'm still reeling that you think the BYD's styling is an improvement over the Corolla; if so, I need to get you the number of my optometrist.)

    If you're acknowledging technical achievement, then kudos to BYD for getting a plug-in hybrid to market years before the competition. That's worthy of mention, and every report on BYD has heralded that -- while taking well-deserved swipes at the uninspired, derivative styling.

    ...and re: rust never sleeping...Peter, you're conveniently ignoring the differences in sheet metal thickness that enabled early Datsuns and Toyotas to shave several hundred pounds and several hundred dollars from their cars, allowing them to enter the market competitively. Check out the early Z forums sometime.

    And c'mon now....the quip about the Caddy isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, as any trapped moisture in those silly vinyl covered roofs remained there for weeks, if not months. Regardless of the rust, they're an abomination. Whoever invented the vinyl-clad roof should be forced to peel off and repaint the lot of them, provided he hasn't already died of shame.

    I have to also say no to that closing comment about patriotism clouding judgment, as I've owned Toyotas and Hondas in the past; in fact, there's an Odyssey in my driveway now, along with a couple of Saabs and a smoke-belching hunk of Detroit iron: a diesel Suburban. I've been able to objectively evaluate them as both an owner and observer...despite that aforementioned Odyssey needing TWO complete transmission replacements in 100,000 miles due to a manufacturing defect.

    But getting back to design...

    Again, blandness shouldn't be cheered. Tired, ho-hum styling shouldn't be celebrated. The idea of car as transportation appliance is as soul-sapping as the dearth of interesting designs coming out of BYD.

    (And perhaps I should have asked this earlier before the tirade.....Peter, do you have any connection to BYD?)

    Posted by Kinky Hoffmeister February 5, 09 11:35 PM
  1. Maybe they could build one shaped like an old shoe in honor of the former President GW Bush.

    Posted by Paul Mc February 6, 09 12:35 PM
  1. BobbyHR-

    You should check your facts. BYD bought an established auto manufacturer a few years ago in order to be in a position to graft their cutting-edge lithium - ferrous phosphate battery technology (they are the worlds' biggest manufacturers) on to the auto market. So they have had a few years to get the two sets of engineers and scientists talking to each other and blending their ideas. To dismiss this text-book approach to the management of the introduction of new technology as "computer guys in a college dorm.....cobble together a bunch of assenblies.....get something to run by sending it out to a car guy" is stupid.

    Kinky-

    No, I have absolutely no connection with BYD. I wish I had. It is obviously the sort of company that manages technology in the way that I used to beg my clients to follow. Unfortunately most of them had the attitudes similar to some of the postings on this thread - an inability to credit anyone other than themselves (or even other than Anericans) with intelligence and competence. The most adaptable and innovative companies I worked with were German, French and Italian. And, before anyone badmouths them, just think and check on their record of technical innovation compared with the USA. In the auto industry alone, small, quiet, economical diesels, 6 or 8 speed and stepless auto transmissions, disc brakes, front wheel drive, all-independent suspensions, transverse engines, airbags, have all come from outside the USA. And Italy has been the inspiration for all auto stylists.

    To get to some facts, I downloaded the front, rear and side elevations of the BYD and 2008 Corolla and looked at them side by side. There really is no significant difference. While such things are by nature subjective, I maintain that most people would find the front end and grille treatment of the BYD tidier and more contemporary than that of the Corolla. The side elevations are almost indistinguishable. The rear elevations are different in detail (rear light clusters, etc.,) but the proportions and overall treatment are very similar. To claim that the BYD's styling is 10 or 15 years old simply doesn't reflect facts.

    As for blandness, that is inevitable. If you are introducing new technology in a mass-market product, marketing management would be courting disaster to adopt innovative and controversial styling as well. One thing at a time. I call this good marketing. Bland, maybe; celebratory, definitely not; neat, tidy, efficient, reasonably aerodynamic, widely acceptable - definitely yes.

    I hope you enjoy your SAABs. Nice cars. Good engineers, the Swedes. If you haven't tried it already. try the 1.9 liter TTiD diesel version - you will be amazed at the difference from your Suburban engine!

    Oh, and as regards the plastic 'leather' roofs, I agree with you. But if you are a major auto maker, and that's what your customers want, do it properly. It's not rocket science.

    Posted by Peter Lloyd February 6, 09 01:01 PM
  1. Hang in there, Peter!

    Just be warned that you're being tag-teamed by a few nihilistic (apparently retired) posters who have the time & energy to regularly swamp these blogs with ideological rhetoric about how there hasn't been a decent good idea since the American Revolution! At the same time, there hasn't ever been a single constructive idea between them, on how to "fix" anything...

    Get-over yourselves — "Kinky" "Anonymous" & others — there's not gonna be a Nov 4 re-do for a while, so take your Maalox & get-on with your lives; at the very least, stop attempting to get in the way of folks who would like to move on with theirs!

    Posted by deltaman February 6, 09 07:53 PM
  1. how to send a car sketch and the price tag

    Posted by barns February 27, 09 01:42 PM
 

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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