Elio Motors – Betting on a Hunch


by Marion Marks*

Coming? 2014, 2015?

Any vehicle that claims to be getting more than 50 mpg will naturally attract attention, by their fact that all we researched are anomalies or strictly one-off prototypes. Yet, Elio Motors claims its three-wheeled car will rate 84 mpg on the highway, far exceeding any car currently on the market.

Yahoo’s Daily Ticker indicates they have driven the car, something few outside the company have so far been able to do other than a few Shreveporters in a parking lot or on a very controlled environment.

$6,800 coffin on three-wheels?

While there’s no definitive verdict on the real impact this car will have outside the wallets of the inner circle who have received great incentives, the car tested is barely a prototype. There aren’t even seat belts in the video or any test drives we have seen! Wouldn’t this be like a motorcycle in more ways than not?

Those who have tested it claim to have had a struggle a little with the lack of power steering and even the lack of a rear-view mirror. We keep referring to it as a three-wheeled coffin.

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However, the crash ratings claim to be far more solid than the prototypes of 30+ years ago.

The most recent prototype has two full seats, three airbags and a operational windows and doors.

The car’s mechanicals have not been substantially improved from the prototype shown in Shreveport. It has a front-mounted 900cc, 55-horsepower three-cylinder gasoline engine, with front wheel drive, and either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission is projected.

Elio-Dash(2014)Elio remains mum as to who will be supplying the engine, but like many of the car’s components it’s common to standard production vehicles, and as such helps keep costs down. This may even allow for after-market modifications to be far easier for buff mechanics.

This will be critical if the car reaches full-scale production, as the company still claims at a starting price of $6,800.

Speaking to Yahoo, Elio’s vice president of sales, Jerome Vassallo, says the company is “80% to 90% confident” the car will come in at under $7,000. Total orders have now crossed 18,000, after clearing the 15,000 mark in April. Those are still small numbers by most standards, but growing interest does suggest there’s a market out there for a low-cost, high-efficiency vehicle.

Production at Elio’s Shreveport GM plant is still slated to begin in March 2015. However there is speculation that another under-utilized facility will be used so that the former GM facility can still lure a larger international manufacturer. We hope to see more test drives in the brightly-colored three-wheeler in more than the fish-bowl parking lot demonstration.

My bet is there will be many more “Shifts, Laterals & Jives” before this bet really pays off for Caddo, however following the money trail will tell us who and what is really going on with the GM plant.

*Based on interviews with local test-drive volunteers and review of automotive journals.