Every so often, we have to bring up Elio Motors in its ongoing saga of automotive manufacture aspirations. The company has made a lot of headway, on paper at least, since we first noticed it a couple of years ago. Yet they always seem a little more vaporous than real. Like a ship in the fog, their horn may not be substantiated by steel unless they enter the port and moor.

When we first had Elio on our radar, we were pretty excited about their product – as most are when first seeing the 84mpg three-wheeler they promise to produce. It’s a great design, a concept that is out of the box but realistic, and one that has appeal for many, judging by the rabid interest level online.  The interest level in our own video introducing the car proves that.

elio motorsThe problem comes with the details.

We’ve discussed the questionable business plan that goes along with this car along with the lack of funding the company seems to have as a chronic roadblock towards ever going to production.

On the other hand, the company did push through a proposal to get the Caddo Township, where the shuttered GM plant they want to occupy is located, to pay for that plant and lease it to Elio through a proxy. Yet now we’re told that the company has yet to sign a lease or put down a deposit on the plant. Calls to Elio to confirm this were not returned (we will update if they are).

Finally, there’s the question of the industrial partnerships that Elio has been forging. They recently publicized an agreement with Flame-Spray Industries to supply cylinder coatings for the engines to be used in the car. This implies that Elio plans to assemble (or build) the engines themselves. That’s counter to what they’ve said in the past, indicating that the majority of the car’s parts would be brought in from suppliers in ready-to-mount condition – it’s part of their business plan for the car, in fact.

At this point, it’s beginning to look less and less like the perpetually “18 months away from production” car will ever be produced. Sure, over 10,000 people have put up deposits on the car, but even if those deposits were pre-payment for the car at roughly $9,000 per, that would not be enough to get the company into production – which Elio’s own estimates say will cost about $200 million.

So for now, while we remain hopeful, we are cautious and still assume that Elio is vaporware, albeit very elaborate vaporware.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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18 thoughts on “Is Elio Motors vaporware, or the real deal?”

  1. Thanks for providing some common sense thinking on the topic of Elio. I would love to know if the $6800 price adds up. It costs the same or less than a motorcycle yet is enclosed, has an extra wheel, a door, AC, power windows, two automobile-type seats, 3 airbags, and projects conformity to auto emissions and safety standards. Is all of this even possible @ $6800?????

    1. Good point Thomas but keep in mind they are using off the shelf parts and components, which saves a lot of money. Still I imagine if Elio does make it to production they might have to raise prices.

  2. If you check your facts I believe you will find that Elio has always stated that the engine and drive train were always going to be produced for the car, not off the shelf as the other components will be.

  3. Sir,
    Your information is faulty at best. Over 16,000 people have placed deposits on the Elio. Elio has maintained from the start that their engine would be proprietary and built in house. Their relationship with IAV, their engine designer and their 3 cylinder design has been public for over a year. Most of their funding is not from $1000 deposits, rather from independent investors. Elio has not changed its projected schedule of the plant starting operation during the last quarter of 2014 with cars being delivered Q2 of 2015 for the last eight months. There is no perpetual “18 months away from production”. All of this information is available on their web site, blog, FB page, and through the various user groups, and their newsletters.

    There is no evidence that Elio is ‘vaporware’. On the contrary, Elio has been extremely transparent in giving details about the prototype development and hit their announced schedules for the P3 and P4 development prototypes. P5 should be out this summer and should be closer to the production configuration.

    Of course, there is always a chance that any company can fail. The automotive industry is brutal, yet the public is primed to accept new concepts that are well conceived. The Tesla is a prime example, producing, perhaps, the most technically advanced consumer vehicle available. Elio is a new concept, that will have a broad appeal. It has developed a grass roots following not unlike that which occurred with the GM Saturn. It’s business plan engages their suppliers as if they are investors and has produced cooperative problem solving from supplier engineers that is rarely seen. The Elio will produce a dedicated following similar to Harley Davidson with equal enthusiasm for individualization and modification. It’s a very exciting project that needs even your support. If it is successful it will change the public’s attitude towards transportation and draw attention to the current American nonsense of buying overweight elephants with the aerodynamics of the proverbial brick, excessive use of materials, and poor energy efficiency.

    Larry Gilbert

    1. Elio stated in 2009 that they would begin production, at that time in Michigan, in “about 18 months.” They said the same in 2011 when attempting to secure a GM plant. They said it again last year. They haven’t even secured the plant yet – no deposit, no signed agreement to lease, nothing. If they’re going to start building cars this year, they need to be tooling and setting up the plant for production NOW. They aren’t.

      Their financial projections (business plans), which are fully disclosed and which I showed in an article linked to from this one, show that their plans for production and sales are so sadly done that even a fifth grader could see the serious flaws in their plans.

      In fact, the only thing Elio has not done is disclose financial information on themselves. The best indication we have of where they stand fiscally is the simple fact that they couldn’t come up with not quite $10 million to secure the Caddo plant for themselves, but instead had to lobby the Parish to do it for them. I’m sorry, but a startup automaker that can’t even field $10M is going nowhere.

      Go ahead and compare to Tesla. The difference? Tesla has a product that has a known market, had plans for a way to market and sell it before they began, and had A QUARTER OF A BILLION DOLLARS in startup funds to do it all with. Not even apples and oranges, more like apples and rocks.

  4. As of two months ago, Elio had procured about $50M in investor funding. Caddo Parish Commision’s Industrial Development Board buying the plant for approximately $7.5 milion, with an Elio investor’s group, IRG, leasing the entire facility and then subleasing part of it to Elio. There are other automotive writers equally skeptical whole approach to the car are not derisive. What was projected when Paul Elio first started the company five years ago with no prototype development, experience in what it takes to develop a car, or financial base is a far cry from the current situation. Yes, his financial guestimations/projections at that time were not reasonable. 2009 financials for a non-existing company are not relevant to the current situation. Tesla, with its large financial base, also encountered delays from their projected production targets. So what?

    Will Elio succeed in producing cars? Probably. Is it worth supporting them? Absolutely. Will skeptics like yourself continue to spout hate as if it really matters? Of course. Other car columns have expressed skepticism, but more from an analytical approach to the existing situation. Here is one. You might learn something:
    *Link Removed by Editor*

  5. Actually, the unrealistic numbers from Elio were from last year, not 2009. They’re linked above if you want to go read what I said about them. Otherwise, we’re just spinning wheels here.

  6. Also.. “as of two months ago?” Since when? I would have thought that Elio would have hyped the hell out of that fundraising like they do every other little thing they accomplish.

  7. And if everyone listened to the Naysayers…America would not be here. Perhaps if your father had taken ‘no’ for an answer, you might not be here either.

    1. Thank you for adding value to the conversation. Your salient point is noted and has completely changed the conversation in such a way that all naysayers must now bow to the Elio shrine.

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