Future Friday—3d Printed Cars

Cars are pretty advanced these days. From cars that park themselves and dynamic cruise control to GPS and 4G networks in many ways the future of motoring is already here. Manufacturing those cars, however, is still done in large factories where each vehicle gets a few variations and a different color of paint. But other than a few cosmetic changes and different drive trains all Civics are basically all the same car.

For the wealthy who wanted something different, there has always been the option of custom hand made cars, but this has never been a large part of the auto industry. Wouldn’t it be cool if it was though?

What if you want a new Chevy Impala, but it’s too long for your garage? Or maybe you like the Dodge Charger, but you want suicide doors? Right now, you would be out of luck. A new manufacturer in Phoenix, AZ, called Local Motors, aims to change that. They’ve taken new printing technology and created 3d printed cars. Their technology is advanced enough that they will even print a 3d car at SEMA this year.

Their plan is to create microfactories around the country where customers will be able to have their custom car built in 40 hours. What’s even more amazing is that the materials used to make the vehicle can be reused. That means customers can take their cars back to the microfactory and have the body ground up and changed to a completely different vehicle.

What Does this Mean for Dealerships?

I recently wrote about how Tesla is fighting with dealerships and state governments to be able to open its own dealerships without franchising. That fight will have a significant effect on how businesses like these operate.

If Tesla succeeds in its efforts to open up the dealership market, it will mean a lot more competition for new car dealerships as other manufacturers open up their own dealerships. 3d printed cars, however, will introduce an entirely new paradigm. Imagine if customers didn’t go to the dealership and test drive a car, but instead went to a showroom filled with computers and sample vehicles where they could design exactly the car they want with design programs and pick it up 2 days later.

The Future Isn’t Far Away

Local Motors says vehicles will be available in about a year for $18,000 to $30,000. They will be specialty vehicles at first, but a future of personalized cars is on the horizon. There will surely be lawsuits and who knows what the final sales, playing field will look like, but disruption is on the way—dealerships need to be ready.

The internet changed how we sell cars, now 3d printed cars are going to change how we make them. How we choose, buy, and make cars will be different, but customers will still need places to buy those cars from. Dealerships that stay on top of technology and communicates with its customers will be the businesses they buy from; those that bury their heads in the sand will go the way of the Hummer.

Michael Bowen

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