The one thing you can say about open source as a development model is that it stimulates innovation --if you can build a significant community around the product. For startups it can accelerate time to market with a more robust and feature rich offering than would be otherwise possible. And when it works it can be very profitable as is the case with Red Hat and MySQL.
So applying open source methodologies to the moribund North American auto sector is at least worthy of consideration. This is especially true for GM and Chrysler who have been fighting innovation for decades. And when you have labour leaders like Jim Stanford blaming lack of private sector innovation for the stagnant business environment then you know that things are bad. And given the private sector's failure it may be time for governments to step in and fund innovation directly.
Redirecting some of the $10.5B that the Federal government is flushing down the toilet into an open source initiative for electric cars might be the way to go. The good news is that there's already a model to follow.
Riversimple is an open source initiative started by Hugo Spowers a former motorsport engineer and racing driver to bring an electric vehicle to market.
The Riversimple approach is based on 5 key principles:
The 20 year leasing model provides a sound basis for the business model, especially when you consider that maintenance fees for electric vehicles are a fraction of traditional gas powered cars. The other really interesting aspect to Riversimple's approach is that it calls for local manufacturing of smaller number of vehicles.
Moving to local production will become increasingly important as fossil fuels become scarcer (for more on this see Jeff Rubin's new book "Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization"). Developing regional economies makes sense for other reasons as well. Local economies will be more diverse and less susceptible to the shocks in one sector, as is happening now in Ontario and the rustbelt states. Incorporating an open source development model will ensure that skilled jobs and innovation continue to happen in local markets while also ensuring cross-pollination of innovations that happen elsewhere. In all it's seems like a win-win situation.
And if you need another argument for open source and against globalization here's something to consider. When Adam Smith wrote "The Wealth of Nations" the global population was about one billion. It's now about 7 times that. Just how big do markets have to be?