But it’s not this blistering performance that has attracted a strategic partnership with France’s PSA Group. It’s the drastic drop in manufacturing cost and complexity that Divergent Manufacturing Platform promises. Here’s what Czinger reckons it will cost to set up a factory for annual production of 10,000 units: 16 3-D printers, 10 flexible robots, 50 technicians, 20 additional staff, and a 100,000-square-foot building. That’s $42 million for the factory and $30 million in tooling.
Those numbers compare with $250 million to build a traditional factory plus $250 million for comparable conventional manufacturing tool-and-die equipment. By his accounting, the rolling chassis unit cost also comes in $500 cheaper (at $3,500), which brings the fully amortized per-vehicle savings of about $3,900. Imagine PSA’s savings on the mainstream Peugeot or Citroën it plans to build this way within three years at 180,000 to 200,000 units annually. Much of that cost and emissions reduction comes by eliminating the paint shop. The aluminum and carbon-fiber chassis doesn’t need it, and the unstressed composite body panels get molded in color or wrapped.
When it only takes a small fortune to get into the car business, Divergent envisions many 10,000-unit microfactories springing up around the country, which would create local jobs and promote local entrepreneurship—just like at the dawn of the automotive age when 1,800 automakers dotted the U.S. landscape.