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Businesses

Build-to-Order Cars? 346

MadMonk writes "Baseline has an article about a new car company that wants to be 'the Dell of the auto industry.' Build-To-Order, Inc. could turn the auto industry on its ear. At worst, BTO will be an interesting technology petri dish. I want a customized car to match my customized computer."
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Build-to-Order Cars?

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  • by Limburgher ( 523006 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @01:59PM (#6595937) Homepage Journal
    Transparent windows, cool lights, and you can even open the front of the case while it's runni. . .oh, wait, that's what we have now.

    Insert random quotation about the hood being helding shut.

  • custom? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JeffSh ( 71237 ) <jeffslashdot.m0m0@org> on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:01PM (#6595941)
    isn't calling a dell computer a "custom" computer a bit of a stretch? they're interchangable parts, its not like they are custom built.

    it's henry fords interchangable parts manufacturing line, but with mcdonalds order panels telling the monkey what part to put in and where. I don't see the big innovation with so called "custom" pc's...
    • Re:custom? (Score:5, Informative)

      by fidget42 ( 538823 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:07PM (#6595963)
      The current auto manufactureres are already the "Dell of automobiles." They give you a selection of options (color, radio, interior, etc.) and you can choose what you want. If you want something for which they don't have a configuration then you don't get it (go ahead and try to get a real Windows CD from Dell, I dare you) or it costs you more than it should.
      • Re:custom? (Score:5, Informative)

        by f97tosc ( 578893 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @05:10PM (#6596646)
        The current auto manufactureres are already the "Dell of automobiles." They give you a selection of options (color, radio, interior, etc.) and you can choose what you want. If you want something for which they don't have a configuration then you don't get it

        The difference is that if you don't want something that they do have, then the unwanted car will be standing, and potentially sold at a discount (whereas the unwanted Dell is never built). The losses from the unwanted cars are passed on to the consumer, in the price of the popular varieties.

        Tor
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:02PM (#6595942)
    I haven't read the article, but that's how it works here in the Netherlands: you order the color, the engine, the interior color, airco yes/no, RPM meter, etc, etc. That's sounds like more choice than with Dell.

    • You can do that in the USA, too. Virtually any auto maker will build you a car to your specs (options, color, etc.). Since the 1980s the options have been more-or-less bundled, and it's a bitch to order them separated (I want a sunroof but I don't want to pay for fog lights to get it!), but you can do it.

      Option bundling is because of the imports. When you're shipping a car from Germany or Japan to the USA, you're gonna have to wait a while for them to build you a car to your specs. So the imports got into the habit of offering two or three option packages, then building cars with those packages in all possible color combos. Then, if one dealer didn't have the package you wanted in the color you wanted, probably another dealer in the area did. The domestic makers (GM, Ford, Chrysler) picked up on this because it's what the public wanted. Most people want their car NOW, not in 4 to 6 weeks, and they're willing to take fog lights to get the sunroof.

      I don't see how this company is going to overcome the public's desire for instant gratification. Pick a car, drive it home today.

      • When you're shipping a car from Germany or Japan to the USA, you're gonna have to wait a while for them to build you a car to your specs.

        This is not entirely true today. Most major foreign automakers at least have assembly plants in the USA. From an options standpoint, this puts them in the same situation as a domestic manufacturer.

      • by f97tosc ( 578893 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @05:20PM (#6596678)
        You can do that in the USA, too. Virtually any auto maker will build you a car to your specs (options, color, etc.). Since the 1980s the options have been more-or-less bundled, and it's a bitch to order them separated (I want a sunroof but I don't want to pay for fog lights to get it!), but you can do it.

        People seem to have missed the point completely. The point isn't that build-to-order enables a bunch of new varieties. Sure, you can still order your favorite color and CD player. The difference is how it is achieved: presently they build a bunch of common varieties. If you want an unusual combination, they will make sure that it is included in the next shipment (or possibly even build it for you).

        The difference with build-to-order is that cars are only made if they are ordered. This has the potential of lower car costs, because you minimize the losses of the varieites that stand unsold, and the ones that have to be shipped from one area to another.

        I don't see how this company is going to overcome the public's desire for instant gratification. Pick a car, drive it home today.

        This is a good point. I think the answer is money. If I could get a car at say $500 or $1000 cheaper (which may be achievable with the new business model), I would probably be willing to wait with the gratification for a week or two.

        Tor
  • by tgrigsby ( 164308 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:04PM (#6595951) Homepage Journal
    If I recall correctly, GM has already had designs in the works for an electric car that would be built on top of a "skateboard", basically a car base with batteries and electronics all built in. You could pop any shell/interior top onto that base. The idea was that you spent the big bucks on the base, and then spend your fashion dollars on a new top from year to year. In fact, an aftermarket was envisioned for custom, made to order, modularized, pop-together tops for the base.

  • Great Development (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheFairElf ( 669537 )
    This is a great development for the auto industry. Considering the number of features that an automobile has, it is impossible to satisfy every customer. I'm only suprised this took so long in the coming.
  • Scott McNealy says it would be absurd to build a car from parts, that's why the PC is dead.

    Who the hell do these people think they are making a liar out of Scott?

    KFG
  • by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:07PM (#6595966)
    You can take all the best car parts in the world and put them together and the car probably won't even run. This article even admits that, and says they are developing systems to make the parts communicate and work together. Think about what this means. Car 1 is a normal car with normal parts the break down at a normal rate. Car 2 is a car with the best of each type of part that breaks down slightly less often than the parts of car 1, only for the parts of car 2 you need an extra widget for each of the parts to make the parts communicate.

    Now even if you have the most high end parts on the market that never break, you still have 50% more parts total to make them work together. That means that each part has to work 66% better and last 66% longer just to break even. Plus imagine how heavy and awkward the car will be with all these extra widgets. This is just another scam to part fools from their money, it makes absolutely no sense from an engineering point of view. Sure you get pretty platinum coated spark plugs, but will they fit in the engine block!
    • I really don't see it work unless they have some kind of standard like computers do. What Dell and other companies have going for them is that a video card from one company will fit in their systems as long as Dell includes an AGP port. Therefore, it is really easy to "customize" a computer for their customers. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think such standards exists in the auto industry.
      • by einTier ( 33752 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @03:24PM (#6596279)
        No, no such standard exists in the car industry. You can plug a Chevy engine into a Mazda, but it requires an awful lot of work, and even then, it's not going to be as reliable as the stock engine in the stock vehicle.

        I don't see how it can work. What they are going to end up with is a car that's only slightly more customizible than a Ford. Maybe you can pick your color from a million different colors, or your interior material from thousands of materials, but even this requires a lot of logistics. Car manufacturers don't limit your choice of color because they only want you to have a few choices, they limit it because changing colors on the assembly line is a lot of time and work. You can have maybe a dozen or so colors ready to go, but mixing and readying a special paint for one car takes a lot of time.

        It's a great idea, but I think it's way ahead of its time.
    • Karma to burn...

      RTFA. He referred to the concept as an "open source car" and seeks to get the vendors to agree on standards. This isn't taking an engine from Daimler and interfacing it with a transmission from GM- which, incidentally, is how it already works in the car business. The Cadillac CTS uses the same Gertag 6-speed transmission as the BMW 5, mated to entirely different (though similar) platforms. By your logic, then the 5 must be a dog because of all they had to do to use GM's tranny.

      In fact,
  • Right... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:08PM (#6595967) Homepage Journal
    I hope they are backed by a large political party, or organized crime. Else the big3 will have them summarily executed.

    Havent we been here before? I think this is how all car companies start out. The world is too corrupt or im a big fat cynic.
    • I hope they are backed by a large political party, or organized crime.

      Close enough. The article did say that they were building a unionized plant in San Bernardino. I'm sure UAW would go to bat for them if things went downhill with their competitors, especially considering that UAW members work for those competitors.
      • Maybe a new US car company isn't as absurd as it sounds. If you look at Ford/GM/Chrysler's problems, one of the biggest burdens they have is their pension systems. From a cold blooded capitalist perspective, it makes sense to just let them die and start from scratch with a young workforce and no pension burden.
        I'm not saying that's a good thing. Quite the contrary, it's another example of how inherently immoral capitalism is. I'm just suggesting that it gives an up and comer a bit of credibility.
        • By "US car company" you mean Ford & GM. Chrysler is owned (0wn3d, I reckon) by the Germans. The US is down to 2 companies. How long do you think that'll last before FIAT buys another?

          Most "foreign" car manufacturers have plants here.
          • How long do you think that'll last before FIAT buys another?

            What with the death of Agnelli, I doubt FIAT will be buying anybody soon. Indeed, GM is making noise about increasing their ownership of FIAT.

            As for GM, I suspect that they're too big to be acquired. The closest anybody came was Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, who, flush with stock valuations thanks to the media bubble, was prepared to buy GM in order to get control of Hughes (ie DirecTV).

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:09PM (#6595977) Homepage Journal
    They quoted 'several' cars per model.. sounds like you get a base model and can customize the options.. like at a 'real' dealer.

    But the 'options' are much greater then traditional factories.. so its not a bad idea..

    Though it *sounds* like another local custom speed shop to me....

    Like to see some of its 'products'.. ( and fewer ads. my god, how many ads can you shove on a page? its getting really silly.. oh and i refused to read even ONE of the ads out of frustration.. in case any marketing types are reading )
  • by Aliencow ( 653119 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:12PM (#6595988) Homepage Journal
    The title of the article is "Dude, you're gettin' a car". To which I reply : "Dude, where's my Dell??"
  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:14PM (#6595995) Journal
    I've never understood, with just-in-time parts delivery at plants, why auto makers can't or don't do this. Why can't I go to their website and pick out my colors and options and have it built and delivered to my dealer a few weeks later?

    Some automaker sites have a "build my car" page where you pick what you want, then they do an inventory search and list some that are close as possible to what you want.

    If you go to a dealer and ask to have a special order, they get pretty upset. I guess this is understandable since they really want to move the inventory off their lot instead.

    But seriously, it's the inventory sitting around that's the big money drainer on a business like this. If they can radically reduce inventory and also reduce the time from manufacture to customer, it means less inventory carrying expense and happier customers.

    • by DevilM ( 191311 ) <devilm@@@devilm...com> on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:22PM (#6596030) Homepage
      Two words; labor union!
      • Two words; labor union!

        Why the hell is this considered "informative?" Do you have anything insightful to back up this assinine statement? Or were just happy to take an opprotunity to unthinkingly bash unions?

      • and since his plant is going to be unionized (one of the conditions for getting funding from the California pension fund), his plans for building a super flexible custom car with huge profit margins are going to be like an egg hitting a brick wall. GM is already doing this sort of crap, but in other countries like Germany because of the UAW work rules.

        Sounds more like he will be selling a 'kit car' with all the aftermarket goodies that people like to use to dress up their cars. The article makes no menti

      • One word, Mexico!

        Which, if you "buy American," is probably where your car was assembled, from Japanese parts.
      • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @04:34PM (#6596526) Homepage Journal
        One word: Bollocks.

        I work in the automotive industry. I can tell you right off why they never try anything radical and new: size.

        Car manufacturing is a complex beast. You have factories churning out huge, unstorable, and expensive metal boxes. These are assembled from the output of similar factories producting smaller metal units. Everything has to work perfectly for a car company to stay afloat: it has to receive every part in a timely manner. The factories have to use these up quickly enough not to require large amounts of warehousing. And, and here's the kicker, the cars have to be shipped to dealers and then sold at the same rate as the factory is producing them.

        Every time a large automotive manufacturer puts out a new model, it's taking hundreds of risks. The factories will have to be retooled - what if the parts don't actually fit together? What if there's a technical flaw with the car? The marketing has to hit the right audience, what if too few or too many people buy it?

        It's not the computer industry. You can't just shove all the unsold items in a large room somewhere, flog them cheap, and then bury the remainder in Arizona, Nevada, or New Mexico. Nor can you easily and responsively tune the factories to consumer demand, because it's not just a matter of switching off a metal press, you also have to deal with the fact that there are physical ships in the oceans with half your cars in them, and they're not going to turn around and take the parts back to where they came from.

        Can you think of any other industry that deals with consumer items of this scale, quantity, and size?

        Given all of this, you can probably imagine that one phrase governs the outlook of virtually all but the smallest of car companies: risk aversion. New technologies are only incrementally introduced. New types of vehicle are rarely introduced (even the minivan's potential could be judged by Chrysler by comparing it to things like the VW mini-bus), "radical" changes tend to be with look rather than functionality. Ford and GM's marketing and manufacturing departments want to be able to predict how successful a car will be, and the more radical the product, the less able they are to do this.

        I have no idea where you put unions into all of this. Unions are merely concerned with making sure their members don't get a raw deal. Producing new products, and hence creating more jobs, doesn't do their members any harm. This is purely a management issue, and an understandable management issue: the possibility of Ford or GM going from being massively profitable one year, to bankrupt the next, is not non-existant. A major slip up can cause this. Which is why, when you see manufacturers playing with anything new at all, you usually see them in small quantities, with little or no marketing.

    • I'm sure at least some do it already...

      With places like Mercedes it's quite common in Germany at least that after you ordered your car (and waited a couple of weeks) you actually go to the factory, get a tour, and then pick up "your" car that was manufactured as you specified.

      I'm sure other car-makers are similarly capable of producing custom made cars... eg
      VW [volkswagen.de] or
      Smart [thesmart.co.uk]

      and many others... I think the difference for this guy is that he will source components from lots of different manufacturers, though
    • Actually, you'd be horrified if you knew the reason you can't do this. Car companies are *legally prevented* (in the US) from selling their cars directly. I don't know the rationale for this, but if it ever made sense it doesn't now.

      I too have felt the frustration of car shopping. You goto a dealership and they don't have the color you want, or the options, and the car they do have is 5000$ more expensive because it has a bunch of useless crap.

      I've been told the best advice is to goto carsdirect.com,

  • BTO!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by JebusIsLord ( 566856 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:14PM (#6595997)
    Ah BTO, Canada's answer to ELO! Their greatest hit was TCB. /simpsons
    • it's nice to see that Bachman-Turner Overdrive is making a comeback. i just never thought it'd be in the automotive industry.
  • The article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:14PM (#6596001)
    "The preconceived notion is that the network will run Unix, but I came to the view that this is a unique opportunity, so why take something that's decades old?" says Lele.

    By that logic, the concept of a internal combustion engine is over 100 years old, and seats are thousands of years old. Maybe he shouldn't use those either.
    • Re:The article (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DeltaSigma ( 583342 )
      Or the wheel... I mean, talk about beating a dead horse.
      • Or the wheel... I mean, talk about beating a dead horse.

        Yeah, they should be using Microsoft Antigrav 2003. Ok, so it takes 3 minutes to start, runs so low that the car will keep bottoming out, has a tendancy to cut out for no apparant reason, and needs 5 times as much power as an equivilent wheel driven car, but hey, it's new!

        Who needs maturity, anyway?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:15PM (#6596004)
    I purchased a new car about a year ago and was dismayed by the way the option packages worked at the dealers.

    As a somewhat practical person, I had no interest in wings or crazy wheels or chrome door handles. However, when it came to features I did want, I couldn't understand why the big engine isn't available with a stick shift, or why ABS can't be obtained with a sun roof, or why fog lights can't be purchased with an upgraded stereo model, etc.

    Above all else, desiring a manual transmission turned me into an instant showroom pariah, as if I had the plague. "I don't know if they even make that model with a stick shift," said one salesman. I understand that manual transmission cars are purchased with greatly reduced frequency compared to automatics, but why bother selling stick shift cars if you make no effort to allow customers to buy them?

    Build-To-Order cars could be the next big thing for informed and frustrated car shoppers, but I have a great deal of apprehension towards the quality of the vehicle and the likelihood I could get it serviced at my local mechanic.

    Eric
    • I understand that manual transmission cars are purchased with greatly reduced frequency compared to automatics

      While this might be true in general, it varies by each model's target demographic. You neglect to mention the make and model car you tried to get. As as example, the target demographic for Cadillac Seville probably has so few customers wanting manual transmissions that it isn't worthwhile for GM to design one, much less actually make it. A manual transmission isn't currently a drop in place part

    • I'm with ya, buddy. When I first went searching for my current car (1998 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor), I found it, but found that they didn't even make the model with a stickshift. While I understand this makes sense since the police's hands are often busy with equipment, the civilian model is also unavailable as a standard. Another problem is the interior. Sure, the exterior is standard whilte. But interior is a special colour that the parts department called "Law Enforcement Blue" and took 6 mo
    • Face it, kid. You wanted a Volkswagen. You just didn't know it.

      Only car company I know of where, if you want, you can still get a car with a sunroof but no leather, alloys with no chrome or woodgrain package, CD without the premium stereo, and of course a manual transmission WITH all wheel drive (though I think you have to go Audi for that this model year, but it comes with a 6 speed, woo woo) on the fuel efficient 4 cylinder turbo.

      I love getting exactly what I want in a car (the huge list of standard o
  • by mistermund ( 605799 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:15PM (#6596005)
    "The preconceived notion is that the network will run Unix, but I came to the view that this is a unique opportunity, so why take something that's decades old?"

    Saying that something that's "decades old" won't fit your new business model simply because of its age seems like a short-sighted way to base a decision. Building an IT infrastructure is not only about fitting your needs, but also about one that will serve you reliably. In the end it doesn't matter what the network runs on, but rather that it works, whether it's Unix, Linux, or .NET.

    Just sounds to me like these cars won't have rubber tires simply because they've been in use on automobiles for a century.
  • Does this mean we will be seeing Homer's dream car on American roads in the future?
    • by macshune ( 628296 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @03:18PM (#6596250) Journal
      When am I gonna be able to purchase a Canyonero?

      Can you name the truck with four wheel drive, smells like a steak, and seats thirty five?
      Canyonero! Canyonero!
      Well, it goes real slow with the hammer down, it's the country-fried truck endorsed by a clown
      Canyonero! Canyonero!
      Hey, hey!
      Twelve yards long, two lanes wide, sixty five tons of American pride!
      Canyonero! Canyonero!
      Top of the line in utility sports, unexplained fires are a matter for the courts!
      Canyonero! Canyonero!
      She blinds everybody with her super high beams, she's a squirrel-squashin', deer-smackin' drivin' machine
      Canyonero! Canyonero! Canyonero!

      Whoa, Canyonero! Whoa!
  • But can I get blue neon lights on my custom car to match the ones I have in my case? Oh wait...
  • If I am going to spend even $15000, much less $35000 on ANYTHING, I feel the need to test it. I don't think I know many people that didn't test drive a vehicle before they bought it. Maybe if you were leasing it you wouldn't care, since it would be under warrenty and what not, but still, you just HAVE to drive a car before you buy it.

    And isn't 90% of the fun of having any modded item the knowledge that you did it yourself? How many people paid someone else to mod their pc case? When it comes down to it
    • It is funny that you associate price with the need to test it considering that the highest priced cars generally aren't test driven.
    • by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Saturday August 02, 2003 @03:47PM (#6596366) Homepage Journal
      Acutally, very few people perform automotive mods themselves these days. At the track I go to, I'd say 85% of cars are modded the same way by the same hadful of sport dealers. Of course, it's the other 15% that tend to burn them, but most people like the idea of spending a little extra to get it done RIGHT. After all, who wants to drop $5900 on a turbo mod, get halfway through it, and torch the engine? Better to make AAA Autospyd or XXX-trem Grafick Kreations do the work, and take the liability.

      Plus, some of these assholes are modding LEASED CARS. You don't want to break your car, that's true, but you SURE AS SHIT don't want to break the bank's car.
  • when i was a child (Score:2, Informative)

    by nicholas. ( 98928 )
    build to order cars were fairly common. you'd go into the showroom, choose the options you wanted and then wait 2 months.

    you could mix and match interiors fabrics with exterior paints. you could choose from different size engines, different size wheels, etc.

    doesn't sound too revolutionary.
  • by jhoffoss ( 73895 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:21PM (#6596027) Journal
    They build you a car. It is highly customizable. You can choose things like Ralph Lauren seats, pretty much any radio on the market, , etc. There will also be multiple vendors for the same parts. So maybe Tommy Hilfiger seats too, or something along those lines. And you will purchase, configure, and finance the car online. So as others have said, this is NOT the Dell of automakers. This is the white-box PC store of automakers.
    • Dammit, I forgot to add, I want one. Maybe I'll have made my millions by the time this company rolls the first car off the line.
    • His plan is actually very much like Dell.

      He intends to come up with a fair amount of standardization for car parts (at least for his cars). This isn't like Dell, but it is like the market conditions that made Dell possible.

      Then he wants to co-locate with part vendors and just do assembly and "integration." This is exactly what Dell does.

      I guess most people don't know how Dell operates. Dell buys very small lots of parts from various vendors many times per day. This works out to a huge advantage becau
  • The agricutlural equipment industry has been doing this for years. Deere built its first custom-order robotic assembly plant in the 1970's, and now

    (http://www.manufacturing.net/ctl/index.asp?layo ut =article&articleid=CA220645#06)

    does a lot of QA / QC with automated processes based upon the electronic design sheet.
  • by D3 ( 31029 ) <daviddhenningNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:25PM (#6596041) Journal
    All Mini Cooper models are built to order. I toured the production plant in Oxford England recently. 100% just-in-time manufacturing process. You'll have a blue British spec followed by a yellow North American spec followed by another color Japanese spec, etc. Of the hundreds of cars in the plant at the time NONE of them were exactly the same as mine and probably not as each other.

    Now, if this guy has the same 280 Million British Pounds to invest in building a plant (as was done by BMW group for the Mini), more power to him. I doubt he realizes what he's really getting into. Probably trying to build hype in the media to attract the investors he needs for such a project.

    • Now, if this guy has the same 280 Million British Pounds to invest in building a plant[. . .]


      Thanks for reading the article.

      The major point would seem to be that he intends to shift most of this startup cost to his suppliers.

      -Peter
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Of the hundreds of cars in the plant at the time NONE of them were exactly the same as mine and probably not as each other.

      My understanding is that no two MG's were the same either, only it wasn't on purpose.
    • You can check out the MINI configurator online at MINI USA [miniusa.com]. Note that it's all Flash - but I have to admit it's fairly impressive, and well built. I think it's the first use of Flash I ever saw that I didn't say "Why they hell do they have Flash here?".

      What I like about the system is that you really can have just about any option with any other option - the only artificial limit is some interior and exterior colors are not available on both models (which is not to say they couldn't do it, they wanted to
    • by Surak ( 18578 ) * <[surak] [at] [mailblocks.com]> on Saturday August 02, 2003 @04:05PM (#6596424) Homepage Journal
      I work in the auto biz, and the job I had before this one (less than 2 years ago) was working for the Manufacturing Technology Applications department in the North American Vehicle Operations division of the world's largest auto maker.

      Let me tell you. Minis are not BTO. First off, BTO implies that you can order anything -- different body styles, even custom panels. Mini doesn't do this. Minis may be built using JIT, but JIT is a lie. It's an accounting trick. There is no JIT, YHBT. ;)

      Secondly, cars of different colors, options, and different body styles, even different makes are already produced on the same line. GM does this every single day. In fact, in it's Lake Orion, MI, assembly plant, three different models and brands are produced in the same plant. At it's assembly plant in Hamtramck, cars and trucks even roll off the same line (or will if they haven't started already).

      No what this guy is talking about is totally different. GM announced a similar technology last year. Mostly it involves creating modular vehicle, shifting production work from plants to Tier 1 suppliers. Entire doors, entire ends of the car, and in some cases, even entire bodies, completely assembled, would be shipped to the assembly plant, where the body would mostly simply be married to the engine and chassis, which roll down the line in one piece (this is actually already how most cars are built, just the rest isn't custom build-to-order).

  • The more morons with 3-foot spoilers and neons on their cars, the more destruction can be caused during one night out. Mwahahahaha!
  • Reminds me of Tucker , I think..?

    At any rate I can see it now, he will brave the waters and set a precedence then another garage startup will take the same idea and do it in China or South America take the same idea and produce the same thing at half the price. Then 10 years later you will be able to buy the parts from Fry's, CompUSA, or online and put together your own cars.
  • Good! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoeShmoe ( 90109 ) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:28PM (#6596048)
    I'm so sick of car makers picking the most idiodic interior/exterior color combinations. Beige leather, ick! Why is that so often matched with the blue exterior I want? Why can you only get black leather when you get a boring black exterior?

    Also burlwood. I f'ing hate burlwood. Yet almost every top of the line vehicle (Acura, Lexus, etc) slathers it over every surface. Why do the cheapeast Honda Civic have metal or carbon-fiber interior options yet no options on the high end?

    When I bought my car, I actually told my dealer I wouldn't mind waiting a month if I could get a specific combination right from the factory. I was even willing to pay transportation. I was told it was impossible. It's no more work for the factory to put one color in place of another, so I'm glad someone finally realized this and is offering the option.

    - JoeShmoe
    .
  • Anyone who watched the movie Tucker: The Man & His Dream (Jeff Bridges) would think that the big 3 sabotaged Tucker's efforts and muscled him out much like Microsoft muscles out competition today. While true in some regard the story was VERY "defactualized" for the book and resulting movie.

    The facts were that the guy, while a great miltary vehicle parts supplier/contractor was a crazy eyed kind of entrepeneur. His cars were unstable at best (not sabotaged) .... just ask a Tucker owner.

    This guy is try

  • The BTO website (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kaz Riprock ( 590115 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:37PM (#6596094)

    http://www.btoauto.com/ [btoauto.com]

    It would have been nice to see exactly what the article was talking about, by linking to it in the summary...you know, because this is slashdot.
    • Man, that's a useless website. Mandatory flash, and all. I guess that means I'll have to buy a regular non-custom car, since I can't browse their site with lynx.

  • by mbstone ( 457308 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:40PM (#6596102)
    The article doesn't address whether tall people like me will be able to spec the custom cars such that we will be able to fit in 'em. I've sat in every car at auto shows and found little satisfaction, even in super-expensive models like BMWs. With great difficulty, I can buy shoes -- not true of cars. I would love to be able to buy a car that fits me.
    • Hmm... what's your size, then? Germany has many tall people too, and I think most german cars are made for people up to 2.1 m (don't know the american size system...)

      Anyway, have you tried the Renault Vel Satis [renault.com]? It has an additional 30 cm of head room for a very special, "spacy" room feeling...

  • Not Again!!! (Score:2, Interesting)



    Won't get far, unless this guy can get his passed...

    http://www.smartcar.com/ [smartcar.com]

    Such a foolish waste of resources _not_ to let these things go ahead...

  • BTO Website (Score:3, Informative)

    by Unregistered ( 584479 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:43PM (#6596112)
    http://www.btoauto.com/index.html
  • What next? Case mods? Overclocking? Would adding memory make my car any faster?
    • But they've already got case mods [focussport.com] and overclocking [turbofast.com.au] for cars. And if you count the tuning boards, adding a chip to a car for faster performance is already available, and those chips usually have a tiny amount of RAM. So really, the car market and the computer market are already quite similar.
  • Speaking from an European viewpoint, most cars we order are actually built-to-order. When we buy a car, there are extensive lists of extras that we can buy or not and add up to the price: Example 1 [bmw.com], Example 2 [mercedes-benz.de].

    The exceptions to this are Japanese and (I think) U.S. cars. These cars are normally sold in Europe already containing every imaginable extra, so the only thing left to choose is the color. Since it takes some time to freight those cars over to Europe using ships, importers normally have a stack of t

  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:50PM (#6596146)
    OK, built to order cars. You can pretty much do that now, although he seems to be intent on giving more choices.

    But if he's really going to try to do something new in the industry, as well a greatly increase the ability to build cards to "spec", I would suggest he seriously consider rethinking the way that car electronics mount and interconnect. I think it's insane the way dashboards are built today, and I'm not crazy about how hard it is to change a radio or install something extra like my ham radio. What the industry really needs is someone not trying hard to lock the customer in, but rather making things much more modular so the customer has the greatest number of choices. I would love to see a system where the instrument pannel, radio, gps/map, and any other electronics (including the computer) are all standaridized "rack" units networked and powered together, such that any device can be located anywhere in the system. If I want a bigger spedometer and tack, I should just be able to plug it into a couple of rack unit spaces. If I want my moving map right in the middle of my dash I just move the speedometer over (or maybe replace it with one integrated into the oil pressure / alternator / warning lights/ trip computer display) and put the video module where the speedometer was. If I get a ham radio made for this technology it should fit into an available bay and cleanly integrate with the rest of the car audio, letting me hear it through the speakers and optionally muting the CD player when there is radio traffic.

    Eventually I would see this leading to "soft" displays, where you can use a pannel for whatever you want, speedometer, tach, warning lights, trip computer, or any new feature you program into a flexiable computer. True button switch pannels could be used, or touch screens that reconfigure themselves as needed, depending on the user's preference. Users could even elect, if they wished, to replace a digital speedometer with a white analog needle module (with appropriate electronics in the module) if they prefer that style of instrument over digital displays.

    Sure, major players are not doing this now because they want to lock you into their stuff. But a modular system should give a truly flexiable design, lower overall costs, and much great utility. If someone is going to claim to want to make build to order cars, them this approach should be a must.

    • I think some automakers are moving in the opposite direction.

      Recently, while looking at a Mitsubishi with the girlfriend, I noticed that the stereo controls were all over the center of the dash. I asked the salesman if the radio could be removed and replaced with an aftermarket.

      I was told that it could not be. You had to just keep the factory radio or build your own custom enclosure to handle an aftermarket. He also said some automakers are installing speakers that only work with the factory radio (a

  • Here's a short piece [ecommercetimes.com] about the founding of this company... written over 2 years ago. I'll be surprised if this company ever gets out of the "preparing to launch" phase...
  • I think this is a really exciting idea, not really because of the implications on the auto industry, but because of the envolved IT.

    The first thing that strikes me is that the choice in web services was depicted as a choice between Linux and .Net. Of course its really J2EE/Linux vrs. .Net (Mono excluded, but at this stage in its development I really doubt they're looking to use Mono).

    Nitpicking from a java advocate aside, I see some tremendous complexity in the IT system and they can't do it with current t

  • I thought this was a great idea until I got to the bottom of the second page:

    since BTO is building a unionized plant in San Bernardino

    Well, so much for the requirement of being ultra efficient and timely.

  • by wimbor ( 302967 ) * on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:58PM (#6596174)
    Is this a troll or for real? All car makers to my knowledge do this BTO...

    I know that all large European car makers are doing this already. My VW Golf that I bought last year was custom made, as are most VW's that you buy. You have 4 basic trims (Base, Comfortline, Highline and Trendline) and you can add options, features, colors (inside and outside), fabrics, ... like you wish. These trim levels are even not decided by VW, but by the importer in each country. A Base model in Belgium does not have traction control, in Germany that is standard on all Golf's.

    Only very few cars of the VW/Audi group are built by order of the factory, and most of these company ordered cars end up in the showroom to give the public a general idea of what is available. Often you get even a discount on those models because they are not 100% configured to your own wishes....

    Volkswagen has a "car configurator" on their website that can make thousands of possible Golf configurations.

    Do you really mean you cannot order your own car in the USA? I'm stunned... I thought buying stock cars was almost impossible these days...

  • that sorta defeats the whole idea of assembly line mass production
  • Many automakers in europe already do this. Their dealership is little more then a few cubicles and one or two floor models to ooh and aah at. There are no "in stock" vehicles. You place your order with one of the workers there where you specify everything exactly as you want it. paint color, interior color, every option, which wheels, etc. And they offer many more options - even on the same cars that are sold here in the US - presumably us Americans are too dumb and would be confused by having so many
  • Tired of looking at the same 8000 identical models of silver nissan ultimas, followed by red ford taurus.

    No wonder truck drivers fall asleep. It's like counting sheeps.
  • I have a hard enough time getting a built-to-order hamburger the way I want it... what makes me think that I won't have the same trouble with a car??? ;-)
  • you know when cars first became popular you used to be ablet o choose the engine the chassis and the body

    and the reason teh ywere mass produced by henry ford was to bring the price down so everyone could have one...

    i saw a thing on the history channel (or mybe discovery?) about how the trend in the auto industry aws moving towards snap-together parts (like big legos) where you could literally snap your bumper off and put on anew one a door etc ahd a car totally customized to what you wanted

    this appears t
  • by bkeeler ( 29897 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @07:22PM (#6597210)
    The prices of computer parts fluctuate very wildly, and almost always in a downward direction. If you have an inventory of computers or computer parts, you are losing money, and fast. This is why Dell's strategy is so successful. It's not so much the customizability - that's a side benefit for the customer - it's the depreciation risk management.


    There are downsides to this business model however. Dell do not have sufficient production capacity to meet peak demand. Say you order a computer today and they tell you it will be shipped in two days. But then right after you place your order, a Fortune 500 customer puts in an order for 1000 new desktop machines. Guess who gets priority? That's right - you get bumped and end up waiting a couple of weeks or more, and get pissed off at them.


    Cars don't have the depreciation problem. A new car will pretty much hold its value while it sits on the lot. The exception is the time around summer when the new model-years come out. That's predictable though, and the industry knows how to handle it.

  • by steppin_razor_LA ( 236684 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @08:10PM (#6597410) Journal
    My last two Boxster's were built to order to my specifications. Waiting 3+ months for your car to arrive is a bitch, but the anticipation can be fun.

    There are literally hundreds of options/choices that you can pick. I really like the idea of everything being "a la carte" so you don't end up paying for features that you don't care about. I also like the idea of knowing that my car is +/- unique (or at least relatively unique)...

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