Is Elio Motors vaporware, or the real deal?

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.

Aaron Turpen
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), the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at