" It has worked for software and t-shirts, but could 'crowd sourcing' work for something as tangible as a motor car? Massachusetts based enterprise Local Motors would certainly like us to think so. In case you've never heard of it before "
Morgan: Love Your Car, Love Your Planet
If you love to drive, then it follows that you should love your car. It might seem obvious to some that falling in love with the car you drive is something to strive for: but think about it a little deeper and you can see that automotive infatuation just might help to save the planet.
And nowhere is the point more relevant when you look at how English sports car company Morgan’s died-in-the-wool world view could soon be the model to which the bigger car corporations turn in the name of survival.
The retro styling of a Morgan’s design isn’t to everyone’s taste – but the micro manufacturing way of doing things they employ has created arguably the most sustainable form of car industry as exists anywhere.
But it’s not only the BMW ‘Efficient Dynamics’ motors in the newest Morgans that colour them green. It is the overall environmental impact on a product that most closely defines how ‘green’ a product can be rated. As Cardiff University’s ground breaking Environmental Rating for Vehicles (ERV) study, the Morgan 4/4 rated a highly respectable score of 28 (the Bentley Arnage rated 2, and the Smart for 2 rated 60, though we personally wouldn’t be seen dead in one of them).
So it is possible to create fun, dynamic cars that don’t destroy the planet without resorting to new fangled fuels and drivetrains.
The open secret of Morgan’s vision is that its business model is based upon low volume production, the long life cycle of their product range and that ptoduct’s simplicity and durability. In other words, it is much more eco friendly to avoid built in obsolescence, high-impact, capital-heavy multiple product development and the use of componentry and materials that are less than vital for a car’s primary purpose.
Morgan began using Ash wood sub frames because of the scarcity of steel in the post war years, but now the use of timber in their cars’ construction is one of the mainstays of the Morgan philosophy. By using lightweight renewable materials such as steel, timber and leather rather than the energy-intense aluminium and other composites to keep weight down and you’ll increase environmental as well as dynamic performance.
Simplicity of design, low volume of production of highly durable and emotionally appealing cars leads us to love our four wheeled companions. Not only is that what every passionate driver desires, but it also makes it much more likely that we’ll care for and nurture our car through an extended life-cycle. This avoids the endless promotion of the new – the basis of course on which not only the car industry, but mass production itself has always relied upon.
And therein lies the rub. If car companies are to survive they need to move closer to the Morgan business model. This ultimately means that fewer cars will be produced and therefore fewer employees in the primary stage of manufacturing will be needed to produce them.
This sort of restructuring is logistically complex and politically sensitive. Cutbacks that these sort of innovations entail rolls down the structure of business and society in general.
If we’re serious about changing the way we produce and consume cars, then livelihoods based on old style mass production will be harder and harder to sustain.
If however, manufacturing turned wholeheartedly to Morgan’s ‘Micro Factory Retailing’ model, then we could reasonably expect that eventually service industries would spring up to support the nurtuing of this new generation of ‘slow build’ vehicles. These smaller scale cottage industries, dedicated to micro manufacturing spare parts and after-market mods and other products, would create jobs, wealth and commerce in its wake.
Crucially, it would be easier and more economically viable for this new wave of industry to introduce in turn their own cleaner, more sustainable processes.
Wether this is a misty eyed piece of wishful thinking or a quiet, wood and leather-wrought revolution only time will tell. Either way, these last few years we’ve begun to look at Morgan’s world view altogether differently.
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