Italian company OSVehicle has developed a kit car intended for use in urban environments, which – in the ‘do-it-yourself’ spirit and in line with the modern ‘maker’ trend – you can assemble yourself and save money.

OSVehicle Sees a Market Niche for its Open Source Kit Car

As town planners tend to allocate less and less space to cars, with urban pedestrian areas becoming popular and environmental arguments hard to contest, auto manufacturers are starting to modify their products, developing more compact, more environmentally-friendly models. This is the background to the new kit car designed by the small Italian company OSVehicle (Open Source Vehicle). Aimed at aspiring DIY-ers, the vehicle chassis can be assembled quickly and easily. The OSVehicle team think their car, which they have named the Tabby, has come at the right time to strike a chord with the simpler habits of many of today’s more eco-minded urban consumers. It can however be customised and made unique to its owner, which makes it at the same time a symbol of the consumer society. Moreover, given the low cost of the kit itself, the product might also find an export market in emerging countries.

Open kit?

The company’s co-founders, Francisco Liu, originally from Macao, and Italian Ampelio Macchi, describe themselves as ‘automobile industry hackers’. The two talented engineers decided to use their long experience in the automotive industry to design a ready-to-assemble car. Users can buy the various components separately, as their finances permit, on the company website, and then assemble them at home. The car is quite compact, but a customer can choose from various chassis models – a 2 or 4 seater, for example – which makes it a real utilitarian car. Strictly speaking what OSVehicle is offering is in fact an open source car rather than a kit car. The plans can be downloaded free of charge on the web, and can be customized, improved and modified for a variety of uses. This approach definitely appeals to ‘makers’ with sound IT and mechanical knowledge, but it also responds to the needs of people who seek simplicity and openness in the products they buy. Designed for urban use, with a maximum speed of 75kms an hour, the Tabby could well create a new market sub-sector and a gradual change in the way people think of the automobile.

Return to simplicity

In spite of its quirky feel, this car has not been designed just for do-it-yourself enthusiasts. The low-price model, which does not require an assembly line, could in fact prove to be particularly suitable for some developing countries and emerging markets. Given the growing appetite for affordable cars in Asia, this not-quite-kit car, with an approach that cuts out just about all overhead costs, could serve as an example to the major automobile manufacturers, whose strategies for offering products tailored to lower-income populations have pretty much ended in failure. And with the slowdown in new car purchases in developed countries, production of this compact vehicle might be efficiently targeted towards emerging markets.

By Quentin Capelle