Local Motors’ focus is to create smart, safe, sustainable vehicles—with a 3D printer. 


That’s how David Woessner ’01, Detroit-based general manager of automotive innovator Local Motors Inc., introduced the company’s vision to students and faculty during his visit to campus in December. Local Motors’ business model is equally audacious.

The Financial Post calls it “so radical that it’s hard to comprehend at first: crowd-sourced, 3D-printed electric vehicles built in local micro-factories the size of grocery stores, then sold directly to consumers.”

Woessner explained it this way to the Wabash community:

“In 2015 more than 80 million vehicles were produced in the world, and the average utilization of a car is between 3 and 5 percent. That means 80 million cars produced sat idle 95 to 97 percent of the time.

“We can create a more sustainable car industry, so there aren’t as many old cars around in junkyards in 40 years, and that’s our focus: to create smart, safe, and sustainable vehicles.”

Woessner considers Local Motors part of a third Industrial Revolution—digital, CAD-drawn, and 3D-printed.

“As battery technology and electronics are advancing, the car is changing from a mechanical vehicle into the most heavily regulated and complex consumer electronic device in the world today,” says Woessner, who previously managed his own automotive consulting firm, W Advisors, in Detroit. In 2009 he also helped bring together leaders from across the country for a summit to find ways the city could work its way out of the Great Recession. He joined Local Motors in 2014.

“Our competitors like Tesla and Elio Motors are still making cars the same old way. We’re fundamentally different in the way we design, build, and sell our products,” Woessner says.

“We combine communities of enthusiasts and problem solvers to understand local needs, harnessing the power of the crowd to develop and design a vehicle. Then we produce it locally at micro-factories, using locally developed fuel sources and locally sourced suppliers.”

Local Motors was co-founded in 2007 in Phoenix by Jay Rogers, whose grandfather owned Indian Motorcycle Company and built the first steel mini-mill. The company made headlines in January 2015 when it introduced the first 3D-printed car at the Detroit Auto Show.

Now it’s ready for the big leap.

“We’re not going to be like BMW and we’re not going to be Hyundai,” Woessner says. “We believe in distributed manufacturing.”

And there will be no chain of dealers to add cost between the manufacturer and the consumer—an equally revolutionary concept that will require changes in the laws of many states.

“You’ll walk into our facility, design your vehicle, and in a few days it’s built and ready for you.

“As Wabash likes to say, we’re changing the world one Little Giant at a time.”

The first LM3D cars are being built at Local Motors’ existing micro-factory in Knoxville, TN. Another facility celebrates its grand opening (in June 2016) in National Harbor, MD.