Cat Hiles
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What the Heck Happened to the Elio?

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Elio release date

Yeah, it’s weird. But cool.

Update 4/5: I have learned that there were more recent reservation numbers available on Elio’s website, and that the automaker had a recent appearance at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show. Article updated to reflect this.


Earlier today, I was having a discussion with Danny about EVs, as you do, when I suddenly realized that I hadn’t heard anything about Elio Motors for a while. Yes, I know Elio isn’t an EV, but there was a reason my mind went there (I just don’t remember what that reason was). Anyway, this led to me searching Google for Elio and discovering that… not much is going on there.

Eli-What?

I first discovered the weirdness that is Elio in May 2014—almost three years ago. The quirky, efficient, super-affordable three-wheeled vehicle was just wacky enough to grab my attention, so I happily covered it here on The News Wheel. In August 2014, Elio reported that it planned to start production in fall 2015… but that didn’t happen. The release date kept getting pushed back and back, due to a lack of funds, and then I simply lost interest and forgot about it.

Back in January of this year, Jalopnik reported that Elio had just $100,000 in the bank and a deficit of more than $123 million. That’s not great news. In fact, articles in both Autoblog and Green Car Reports say that Elio’s production has been pushed back yet again—this time to 2018. That’s three years later than its first anticipated production date. Oh, and the projected price has increased from $6,800 to $7,450, so there’s that as well.

Elio History

Elio Motors was founded in 2009 by Paul Elio, a former cab driver and stockbroker in New York City. He came up with the idea for Elio because he was frustrated with rising gas prices and America’s dependence on foreign oil. He wanted to create a vehicle that was both fuel-efficient and affordable, if slightly odd-looking. The resulting vehicle, Elio claimed, would be able to achieve 49 mpg in the city and 84 mpg on the highway—and it would be easily navigable around city streets due to its small size (about the same length as a Honda Fit, but cheaper and lighter).

Elio did have a presence at the 2016 New York Auto Show, where the automaker debuted its “My Elio MyWay” customization program. This year, Elio showed up at the Detroit Auto Show in January with its latest engineering vehicle, the E1c, which made its debut at the 2016 LA Auto Show. In Detroit, Paul Elio talked about how much progress the company had made in 2016, with design improvements and new partnerships among its big wins. It definitely sounded like things were progressing… but the lack of money in the bank is still a real issue.

Elio release date

The Elio parked next to regular-sized cars

Making Reservations

Paul Elio’s idea received a great amount of interest, and drivers around the country started throwing down money in order to reserve one of these innovative machines. To get on the list and become one of the first to drive an Elio, all you needed was $100—though throwing down $1,000 would put you at the top of the list and get you a T-shirt and a bumper sticker. According to Elio’s website on April 5, 2017, more than 65,000 people have put down deposits, but with no projected production date in mind, it’s highly likely those people can kiss their deposits goodbye.

Can Elio Succeed?

Based on the company’s current deficit, I’d say that it looks like Paul Elio’s dream will never come to fruition, and those who paid to be among the first to own these cars will have to eat their money and call it a tough lesson learned. Although at least those big spenders can say they got a T-shirt and bumper sticker out of it… right?

Gallery: Elio at the 2016 New York Auto Show

News Sources: Jalopnik, Autoblog, Green Car Reports

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  • Cat HilesManaging Editor

    Catherine Hiles is a native Brit currently based in Dayton, Ohio. Don't ask how that happened. Cat has written about a variety of subjects, from dog training to fashion, and counts running and cooking among her hobbies. Cat lives with her husband, Ben; their daughter, Rose; and their collection of animals, including an energetic mutt, an elderly basset hound, and a jerk cat. See more articles by Cat.

  • Joshua Johnson

    I actually got a T-Shirt and bumper sticker for the $100 reservation too. 😛

    • Stephen Webb

      I want one still

      • Pamela

        You can still get your $100 t-shirt and bumper sticker…

        • Stephen Webb

          Lol no. Just the car please.

    • Cat Hiles

      Bonus!

    • stts

      Me too. Jumped on at 64,000 mark for $100 reservation. Didnt want to risk any more but they have a very advanced prototype. Now if they can only get funding to build it.

  • Jeff Mezzanotte

    I can at least say I own a $1000.00 T-shirt…lol

    • Walter Head

      Well, you can get the shirt for $100 too.

  • David Watson

    Production is now scheduled for 2018, progress has been made with prototypes and crash testing. Most states, lobbied by Elio, now classify the Elio as a car so that helmets and endorsements are not required. Wheels are turning slow, but to bury this project is premature.

    • Cat Hiles

      Agreed, but if the company has a deficit of $123 million and only $100K in the bank, you have to admit it’s not looking good…

      • IdjutDetector (RTme)

        you wrote this whole article on this response. Fake News. This is ALL you have to work with.. There’s more hope than you know. You’re an Idjut.

        • whaaat

          well… there ARE the SEC filings… none of which look too good for Elio

      • Gavin Landon

        Elio is no Tesla, but even Tesla has debt. Currently, has contractual obligations of $18 billion!!!

        Debt is not sole indicator of pulling through, but agree debt’s never good in general…

      • Dan

        My understanding is that they are relying on qualifying for a government loan that they are trying to apply for.

        • yul

          That was years ago, they never got the loan

        • Dan

          When the apparently damning financial reports came out in I think January or thereabouts, that was the company line- that they are still working on getting approved for the loan. They started the process years ago I’m sure, but my understanding is they are still trying. It seems to be their only realistic hope of getting into production.

        • yul

          Not happening, read there many BS posts that they are seeking or have other people to fund this endeavor….they have been feeding this line for 4 years……it was used to keep people sending money

      • yul

        Those numbers were based on the SEC statement end of sept 2016. they are way beyond that at this point. Paul had to move his pseudo main office out of the Biltmore in Phoenix to his house. Govt has already denied them the loan , they are just not letting anyone know that

    • If it classifies as a car, it needs to go through regular NCAP car crash testing. That’s a setback. That may well change the whole setup.

      • Stephen Webb

        I believe it falls under the motorcycle category but they planned to crash test anyways.

      • Aaron

        It’s not a car. It’s classifys as a motorcycle.

        • yul

          actually its classified as an autocycle

        • whaaat

          Some states classify it as an autocycle, but that classification is a subset under the motorcycle category.

          On the federal level, it’s still classified as a motorcycle.

    • 208s

      It’s classified as an autocycle not a car here in Idaho, no helmet required but no car crash testing, etc. required either. I wish I could buy one for my daily commute!

    • Gary Constantine

      No, its dead. There is no way they can raise the funds they need just to produce initial production cars, they won’t get the AVTM loan, and there simply is not enough demand to keep ongoing sales to manage a cash flow to support a reliable supply chain. They haven’t lifted a finger in the Shreveport so called “factory”. This will never be crowdsourced. A car company needs at least 500M to launch, they aren’t remotely close, and never will be. Its got nothing to do with the wheels turning slow, its a business with no viable business model, and no money. Bury it.

    • LiLWing

      Crash testing?? Really?? Please put forward your sources! Elio doesn’t have one complete vehicle of the handful they’ve built. Let alone one to drive into a wall!

    • yul

      Butter them up Elio is toast.

    • stts

      Im pesemistic but I got me a $100 T-shirt anyway. They have developed an advanced prototype and all thats missing is funding to produce them. Trump is here and American made is the new focus. That Obamanation spent 5 years in “study” before dumping pipelines. Trump will be way more decisive and this could be Elios ticket.

  • Pamela

    Please Cat do at least some remedial research before publishing something in April 2017 that has information that was current mid 2016. For starters a simple check of Elio’s website shows they have over 65k reservations. Also you neglected to mention the engineering series. You could have at least mentioned the E1C at the Detroit auto show earlier this year. That was pretty much the last thing before Elio went silent. Nor did you mention anything about their legislative success where there are only a handful of states where you would need a motorcycle license or have to wear a helmet. That has changed drastically from when they started. There’s also no mention of the price. When they started they had a target price of $6800 If you adjust that price for inflation you get $7500. The current targeted base price is $7450 so I’d say they’re keeping the pricing fairly spot on. They have a product 90%+ ready to go. All they need is financing to make it so. The large woman may be warming up back stage but there is still a possibility Elio will make it to production.

    • Cat Hiles

      Thanks for the comment, Pamela. I’ve made some updates to the article based on this information (the original article did include information about the price, though).

      For the record, I like the idea of the Elio and I want it to succeed. I hope that they’re able to get the funding they need, but I still don’t think it will happen, unfortunately.

      • Pamela

        Sorry about being a little harsh. I figured this was just another Elio bashing article. I too would love to own one if they ever make it to production. If they do fail at least they’ve done a lot to make the legislative landscape more receptive for someone else to bring an autocycle to market. As LMP-1 mention it is concerning that they raised 17M that was supposedly more than enough money to build 23 E-series models for testing and finalizing the design. Then they only build 3ish and appear to be out of money? When that happened last year is when I began to think they might not make it. I’ve gone from eagerly awaiting the start of production to thinking, yeah this probably isn’t going to happen. I almost put down $1k for one. Now I’m glad I didn’t. At least I will always have my $100 t-shirt and bumper sticker to comfort me 🙂

    • Joe

      Yes and we can all buy unicorns.get real elio is dead and Paul lived off of idiots for 8 years !!

      • Gary Constantine

        Yep he has been pulling a sizeable six figure salary off the dopes plunking down deposits as he just has to show up at a few shows and shopping malls trying to make this ponzi scheme happen, its pathetic.

    • Gary Constantine

      It still doesn’t matter if you fine tune those minor details, because they are minor when compared to the major details, mainly cash, and the probability of ongoing cash flow; poor. They will never make it to production because they need that last major 125M+ just to somehow do something with the factory, and none of the founders have ever run a large scale mass production business, ever. They would need 500M+ just to make up for all the costly mistakes just trying to dial in production, but after early adopters buy in, there won’t be mass demand. You are wasting your time talking about details that do not matter. No cash, which won’t be had with “deposits” either, no company, ever.

      • LMP-1

        All we are going to have to do, is wait around until the beginning of May. This is because, that’s when the next SEC filing will come out. Elio can’t sugarcoat that information. It didn’t look good halfway through 2016, I doubt it’s going to look any better for the end of 2016 report.

    • yul

      They have nothing ready to go , the still don’t have 1 complete vehicle yet, they are going to lose Shreveport this summer, they couldn’t even finish the 23e vehicles, they already know that the govt isn’t giving them 300 million…its been 3-4 years since they put in for that,(it took them 4 years to get 65k reservations(that’s a far cry from the 200k they say they will build a yr) they don’t qualify for café credits. They delete anyone with real direct questions on their page on facebook because they don’t have any real answers(or just not ones that would leave anyone with faith that they could actually get this done). There is good people who don’t have a lot of money being sucked in to this crap, iits time for this money grab to end.

  • To be honest… I never heard of any startup that managed to burn more than a 100 million USD and that still has no viable demos. At least Aptera had (demo cars). Prototyping may cost around 15-20 million. Mind you, this is not a hi-tech roller. Curious what happened…

    • Phil, I wonder what kind of salary Elio is pulling out of the company. I paid my money down but I am not holding my breath. Looking more and more like a shyster!

      • Gary Constantine

        It was @200K/yr last reported, suckers.

        • whaaat

          250k per yr

      • milliamp

        His salary is almost irrelevant. He has 18 million shares of in the company (worth about $8 each) and most of them are held by a private company he also owns named Elio Engineering that does automotive R&D. How much of the $30 million/year in R&D is diverted to companies he has financial stake in like Elio Engineering? $250k/year is peanuts. Think bigger.

  • JRHill

    The Elio would be perfect for me although my wife has said she’ll have nothing to do with it – nothing smaller than a 3/4 ton pickup for her…. So my reservation is in place and I’m hoping for the best. Worst comes to worst, I wouldn’t be surprised over some kind of legal change that releases them from the locked in price but honors the reservation. $7500 is still really cheap.

  • Gary Constantine

    Don’t waste your time with this fiasco. Look at a viable company like the ElectriMeccanica Solo Electric 3 wheeler. They already make cars, have a factory, the expertise, the experience. Their product is the future and it looks nicer.

  • Billy Pate

    Only one word “TUCKER”!

  • CVVH

    The SONDORS electric autocycle is basically the EV version of the Ello, but much better looking.

    • milliamp

      Anther similar one is Arcimoto. It is an electric reverse trike but it’s not fully enclosed. I think they are expecting to go into production before Sondors.

      • CVVH

        Arcimoto really seems like a glorified 3 wheel golf cart. It’s a great idea, don’t get me wrong, but seems more suited as a “neighborhood vehicle” and I don’t think it is intended for highway use.

        • Pamela

          I was mildly interested until they made it RWD. With just a single rear wheel drive that thing will be a death trap on slick roads.

    • Pamela

      I’d be shocked (no pun intended) if SONDORS makes it half as far as Elio did.

      • whaaat

        since SONDORS already has a product for sale on the market, I’d say that pretty much surpasses anything that Elio has done.

        • Pamela

          WOW! SONDORS sells a bicycle that someone else in China makes for them. Yep I’m sure that will give them a huge leg up on actually manufacturing something and getting further than Elio. At least Elio had/has people with actual experience in the auto industry.

        • LMP-1

          Having has/has people in your company with auto experience doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the money to pay them or fund the project. Elio Motors is run out of Paul’s House. They have no R&D center either. Prototypes were contracted out to be built by another company. So, I assume that all of these Elio employees are operating out of a residential neighborhood in Phoenix? I bet the neighbors love that.

          As we’ve learned from Elio, having a slick website and a few prototypes built accomplishes one thing, people will send you money no questions asked. Plus, you never have to give it back to them if you never make anything or just decide to use it to build a house in the Caymans, then retire.

    • stts

      This is a waste. He has no way to build it to work summer and winter. The Elio will be heated and air conditioned. Only Tesla has managed to build all the trappings into an electric car but they dont come cheap. Elio has a completely viable setup thats ready for production. He just needs loan funding like Obama wasted on Fiskars. Obamas stupidity is why Elio is finding it hard to get funding.

  • Charles W Phillips

    I just got another request for $500. To assure my spot In line ,,,if I send it by April 9 ,,,,3 days from now..No other word about weather they will still produce . So any advice? I sure don’t want to give Paul Elik any more money to run with .

    • Moscovian

      I got the same thing. I hesitate. Say what you want about Trump, but this car company won’t ever have a better chance to thrive than during a Trump administration that twists corporate arms for production to be kept in the U.S. If Elio can’t get its act together now, it probably never will. I’m a backer, but I’m good sitting at $100 till I see SOMETHING solid.

      • LMP-1

        Think about it. The whole Elio idea was built because of the past administration. It was about green tech, helping out the poor, creating American jobs, lessening our reliance on foreign oil. Current administration is pretty much about creating American jobs and for the rest of it, not so much. Plus, the current administration has someone who is a businessman and not a lifer politician. So, this administration probably knows what questions to ask as opposed to the wow factor politicians like. When you are on year 8 of a project with no results and the only plan at the moment is a handout, that doesn’t sound like something the current administration would like to work with.

        I’d give that extra $500 because Americans have so much money to blow, it doesn’t mean a thing to them. This is the reason why so many of these types of projects are aimed at Americans. If I walked up to you on the street and asked you for $500 and kept bothering you, you’d call the police and have me arrested. If I have a slick website and an idea plus I bug you for $500, it’s OK to give it away.

        Then there’s the other thing. If you don’t get your spot in line and when they go into production, you’ll be mad because you won’t be part of that group and not be able to post pics on social media and forums. By the time you get yours, it’s already run it’s course. Instant gratification is good and if you need to pay for it, then the $500 is already in Elios hands.

    • yul

      Don’t do it , this guy is a scam artist

  • fred smith the deplorable

    What happened to Elio? They never produced a viable prototype, and finally ran out of suckers. After 4+ years of laughable prototypes, and production being just ~15 months away, even the suckers are realizing that this company just doesn’t have the right stuff.

  • Dan Ashley

    Elio is following the financial performance I predicted in 2011. Not withstanding the extreme difficulty and costs associated with a vehicle start-up, Elio’s price point is not sustainable. His published proformas do not account for cost of sales, cost of warranty repairs, or consumer driven litigation. Moreover, Elio has NEVER had any job openings on its web site. It essentially has no employees. It is difficult to make and sell things without any workers. The only thing Elio has. Accomplished in eight years is introducing the concept of “autocars” to the lexicon in a number of States. This is a worse record than any politician.

  • LifeLongLearner71

    I grew up in south Louisiana. I know some of the entertaining yet tragic history of Louisiana politics and politicians. They are a breed apart. After reading many news items, and finally seeing the Cedric Glover KEEL radio interview, I’m afraid Elio’s choosing Louisiana killed its chances, from the start. The transition of the plant has been mired in local city, parish, and state politics, from the start.

    Even if Elio is an ignorant fool, as he seemed a few years back spouting a 2015 production date, he and the company are also victims of lawyers and bankers working in the interests of rich folks against other rich folks, all expecting no risk and pie in the sky reward in Caddo parish. And with no true innovation investor in sight.

    Big companies with tons of money and workforce take SEVEN years to bring a new design into production. It’s as much a regulation/legal process as it is technological. The first “real” working design was the P5 in 2015. If Elio had just said “2020” for a production date back in 2015 he would have been much closer to reality. And folks wouldn’t be so pissed off year after year.

    I’m one of those pissed off. I need a motorcycle engine wrapped in an enclosed cockpit, like, yesterday. It’s ridiculous that an idea that dozens of thousands of people want to buy THIS MINUTE cannot be produced in some predictable manner.

    Elio IS like Tucker. Although Tucker actually knew mass production. And Tucker produced 50 real cars with new features that now appear on cars to this very day. And Tucker was SQUASHED by lawyers and bankers working for huge corporate interests making up the rules of the game as they went along. Things have not changed so much.

    Elio does not want to scam the world. He wants to build this car. He just can’t quite make out the mines in the field ahead. His big mistake was thinking of the car as a set of technical problems to be solved. The car is also a set of HUMAN problems to be solved. Elio has not proven he can assemble a team that can attack both sets of problems.

    This ends my love affair with Elio motors. It was good while it lasted.

  • Cujet

    Looks like they are done.