Curtain Quickly Closing on the Elio

It’s been three years since I first discovered the Elio. “The Elio is a three-wheeled car that runs on gas, gets 84 mpg, and when it comes out, will cost $6,800,” I wrote in April of 2014, glossing over the fact that the car will also have a 5-star crash rating. “The Elio is set to hit roads in 2015,” I noted, and based off what I knew at the time, I put down a $100, non-refundable deposit to reserve my car.

In that same post I dreamed about how much money driving an Elio would save me. My Subaru WRX STi gets approximately 20 miles per gallon and uses premium, non-ethanol gas (the expensive stuff). The Elio’s light body and small build make it four times as efficient, claiming 84 miles per gallon. Using 2014 gas prices and assuming I would drive to work every single day, I estimated yearly gasoline savings of more than $1,700 a year — and this was before I re-enrolled in college. A round trip to OU from my house is 90 miles. In 2016 I drove to school and back twice a week for 32 weeks — that’s an additional 5,760 miles! I’m no math major, but it seemed to me this car was going to pay itself in savings alone very quickly.

Three years later, and the Elio hasn’t saved me a dime. In fact, I’m still $100 in the hole.

The future of Elio depends on where you get your information. ElioMotors.com claims that the Elio is “U.S. made by American workers at the former GM plant in Shreveport, Louisiana”… but the reality is, Elio hasn’t made any cars at the Shreveport plant, or anywhere else. In fact, the company is struggling to pay rent. According to Jalopnik.com, “since last October, Elio hasn’t paid their monthly tab to RACER Trust — which provided a $23 million loan to facilitate its move to a shuttered General Motors plant in town. As a result, Elio currently owes more than $1.7 million in back payments to RACER Trust. While the default interest rate of 18% will continue to add up until payments resume, the company now has another year to pay back the principal on the loan.”

It gets worse. From the same article:

“The SEC document says if Elio receives $25 million in funding by the end of July, then Elio must pay back RACER its overdue bill — now totaled at $1.75 million — and on top of that, the default interest rate of 18 percent will begin to accrue starting in August. But now, Elio has an extra year to pay back the full loan. So here’s the question: Who’s going to immediately float Elio $25 million?”

Despite taking thousands of non-refundable down payments ranging from $100 to $1,000 from customers, Digital Trends claims Elio “had just $101,317 in cash on September 30, 2016,” and appears to have less than that now. “The same document,” according to the article, “declares recurring net losses caused an accumulated deficit of over $123 million.”

In the rental contract Elio signed for using the GM plant, the company promised the bring 1,500 new jobs to Caddo Parish, Louisiana. According to TheHayride.com, so far, they haven’t hired anyone. The agreement states that Elio must either “produce 1,500 jobs in Caddo Parish by July 1, 2017, or cough up a $7.5 million fine.” Elio missed the deadline.

If and when Paul Elio gets out of the car business, his ability to keep a straight face would make him one hell of a poker player. “I feel very confident with what I know today that we’re going to get this off the ground,” said Elio this past May. Publicly, the company never breaks character. The last email I received from Elio covered how affordable these vehicles will be to insure. Not once has Elio ever hinted publicly on their website, blog, or mailing list that there’s any behind-the-scenes turmoil going on. In fact, the company’s website will still gladly take a down payment from you for a new Elio.

Let me save you $100.

I love the idea of an Elio. I can’t imagine anything cooler than driving to work, school, or cross-country in a three-wheeled vehicle that feels like a car — a car that gets twice the miles per gallon my last motorcycle got and that I can drive year round. The backseat has enough room to take a kid to the bus stop or a suitcase full of clothes for a road trip. The dual front-wheel-drive tires are designed to pull the Elio through snow and ice like a futuristic sled. With hybrid and electronic cars still in their infancy, I feel like the Elio is a way to lower my carbon footprint, just a little bit.

The only problem with the Elio, as far as I can tell, is that they’re never going to build them.

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2 comments to Curtain Quickly Closing on the Elio

  • That stinks. I was looking forward to seeing it in action (and I figured that seeing you showing yours off would be the closest I’d get to that).

    Ah well, back to my Twitter campaign to get Elon Musk to let me test drive a Tesla Model 3 (for several years), or to send me to Mars, whichever comes first.

  • RobOHara

    I think the Tesla Model 3 is a step in the right direction, but the base price of $35k is misleading — to get any of the self-driving features plus the longer distance battery, the total is closer to $55k-$60k. And while I realize they’re not in the same class, you can buy a 3 year old Corvette Stingray for $40k-ish (nowhere near the mileage, but still tempting if you’re going to drop that kind of money on a new car).

    There’s something just inherently appealing to me about a car that I can throw a bag of clothes in, top off the eight-gallon tank, and drive ~650 miles in. It has all the American spirit of a cross-country motorcycle run in a quirky, space-age, three-wheeled car.

    It’s a shame that literally tens of thousands of people have signed up to say “the day this rolls off the line, I am prepared to buy it” and they still can’t get their act together. A real shame.

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