By on May 8, 2014

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The real estate developer who holds the lease on the former General Motors assembly plant in Shreveport, Louisiana that Elio Motors plans on using has exclusively told TTAC that regardless of published reports, another tenant will not be replacing Elio and that the automotive startup has a signed lease for the facility and is on schedule with its plans to start production in early 2015.

In other news on the Elio front, the company had earlier indicated that while retail sales will be handled by factory owned outlets, parts, service and warranty work will be performed by a nationwide chain of repair shops. That chain has now been identified as Pep Boys.

A couple of weeks ago local media published the news that some Caddo Parish commissioners reported that another company was in negotiations to lease space in the former General Motors plant where the proposed 84 mpg enclosed tandem reverse trike was going to be built by Elio. Potentially 3,500 jobs were involved with the new tenant. The parish had purchased the plant for $7.5 million and leased it to the Industrial Realty Group, run by Elio backer Stuart Lichter, who had previously announced that Elio would be subleasing about 1/3 of the plant’s 4.5 million sq ft of space. When news of the negotiations with another company broke, one of the commissioners expressed uncertainty about Elio’s plans for the factory coming to fruition. Another commissioner, Stephanie Lynch, who was the only one of twelve commissioners who voted against the parish buying the factory and subsequently filed a lawsuit trying to stop the purchase, firmly doubted that Elio would ever start production.

Just what role the unidentified second company would take in the facility and if it was going to replace Elio was confused by the commissioners’ statements and by the fact that at the time that the Shreveport Times published those comments they were unable to get an official response from Elio or IRG. While nobody quoted by the Shreveport Times article actually said that the proposed second tenant was going to replace Elio, that possibility was implied by the headline, “Is Elio coming to Shreveport? New company eying (sic) former GM plant, commissioners say,” and by the lead sentence, “Thousands of jobs could be on the horizon for the former General Motors assembly plant but not from Elio Motors.”

There is no shortage of skeptics of the Elio enterprise and in a manner akin to the parlor game “telephone”, what was confused in the Shreveport Times ended up in car blogs as another company trying to swoop in and snatch the factory away before Elio starts building their vehicle.

Now I have no idea how the Shreveport Times tried to contact Elio or IRG before they ran that story, or if they’ve tried to follow up in the intervening two weeks since then, but I went to IRG’s website, found Stuart Lichter’s email address, and asked him to comment on the matter. He responded almost immediately and then quickly followed up when I needed some clarification. This is what he told me via email:

The bottom line is there was another company that was showing an interest in the [Shreveport] facility and — as the holder of the lease — I was trying to create a double ‘win’ for the area by getting both deals done.

The other user has gone away and there is a lease in place with Elio — so the short story is any semblance of truth there was in that article or the blog are no longer true.

The idea that Lichter, who is one of Elio’s financial backers, would try to negotiate with another company to replace them as tenants is simply nonsensical. Lichter has been saying all along that his plans were to have additional tenants, hopefully some of Elio’s suppliers.

Assuming that what he told me is true and that Elio Motors is proceeding as scheduled, if they do get their trikes built, they’ll be serviced at Pep Boys shops, or at least the 90% of Elios that the company predicts will be sold in the 35 states and Puerto Rico where Pep Boys’ 800 stores have 7,500 service bays. Elio is currently evaluating service options in the remaining 15 states and the District of Columbia. The repair chain will also handle parts and related logistics for Elio. As yet, Elio has not announced any plans to export or build their trike overseas.

The repair and warranty deal with Pep Boys does raise a question. There were three “Pep boys”, Emmanuel Rosenfeld, Maurice Strauss, and W. Graham Jackson – Manny, Moe, and Jack (actually, the chain had a fourth original founder, another Moe named Radavitz, but he sold his share before the tripartite brand name was coined), and the Elio trike is only a two-seater. As yet there is no word on which of the three is going to have to walk.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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40 Comments on “Landlord: Another Firm Will Not Supplant Elio at Plant. Manny, Moe & Jack to Service Trikes...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    I’m really pulling for these guys to succeed and have mulled over the thought of buying one when I return from my overseas assignment. 85% of my driving needs would be met by such a vehicle, and if the mileage and purchase price targets are on track, it’d certainly be tempting. And being the rabid patriot that I am, having it designed, built (and largely sourced) in America scores extra points.
    We’ll see how it goes when I get back to the US in 2016 or so…

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      +1 on “really pulling for these guys to succeed.” Until/unless I can afford a Morgan trike, the Elio is the next best thing.

      • 0 avatar

        If they make it to production, my prediction is that they will indeed be seen as a poor man’s Morgan 3 Wheeler and that car and motorcycle enthusiasts will embrace them.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Well, the Elio is a lot closer to a three-wheeled automobile than the Morgan, which really *is* a motorcycle…so I have a hard time comparing the two, even though I like them both. But that’s good for Elio. Airbags, doors and climate controls are going to make the three-wheeler a lot more palatable to the general public than it might have otherwise been. It will keep people from feeling as though they’ve made a huge compromise.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Well, if you decide that you definitely want one, you might want to see about putting the deposit down now. I’ve a feeling that these will be in short supply.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      Have to agree. This vehicle would be perfect as my commuting vehicle. If all their numbers jive, my monthly gasoline savings would cover the loan payments on it.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        “If all their numbers jive” – That’s where I’m scratching my head. 84MPG highway: how? It weighs more than a cycle, has an engine that’s cycle-sized (although not very efficient given its horsepower), and yet pulls MPG that no cycle can get? What’s the Cd, .001? I’m expecting some major “adjustments” to these claims.

        • 0 avatar
          mikedt

          I know motorcycles have horrible cd’s – although I haven’t googled the specific numbers. Craig Vetter holds a motorcycle mileage contest with bikes that have custom slip-streamed fairings and those bikes do fantastic MPG.

        • 0 avatar
          rem83

          I average a bit over 80 mpg on my 2 cylinder 200cc motorcycle in urban-leaning driving. That’s with a final drive ratio and 4 speed transmission that puts me at 9000 rpm at 70 mph, a single slide carb and a drag coefficient approaching a barn door. Elio’s numbers may not be based in reality (I believe the 84 came from taking US fleet average and multiplying by 3) but they should be able to do very well with a fuel injected 3 cylinder, low weight and an aerodynamic body. The Mirage is managing 44 highway with more wheels (increased drag and rolling resistance), a much larger cross sectional area and almost twice the weight. I wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed if the Elio can manage upper 60s on the highway.

        • 0 avatar
          993cc

          To approach it another way, a 1994 Geo Metro with the same size engine, fifty percent more weight and twice the frontal area could, under the right conditions, get over 50 mpg. Given the improvements in combustion efficiency in the past twenty years, 84 mpg seems plausible. Or at least no less plausible than the rest of the Elio enterprise.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I’m really looking into this myself too. Cheap, economical, and simple. Just what I need for a fairly easy 70mile round trip commute.

    Not crazy on the Pep Boys thing though. When it comes down to it, I’m far more qualified myself to work on it then most the mechanics there. I wonder what kind of warranty would be on the thing? It’s nice to get stuff fixed for free, but on that note, sometimes I just rather do it myself anyways and known how it’s done. Wonder if they’d give me the part and I could perform my own work; no way a major brand would let you do this, but a small startup? Would be nice, just call up a center, have them ship the part out and you ship the old one back as a core/credit.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      One would hope that Pep Boys receives training on the Elio so that the company’s mechanics are as competent with the car as a franchised dealership would be with the brand that it sells (although if my local Hyundai dealership is any indication, even *that* isn’t saying much).

      As far as your idea about having them ship the part to you, I quite like it. A few years ago, I had a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop that I’d purchased from a liquidating business and that had the business warranty. Every time it broke (which was often), Lenovo would either dispatch a local repairman to come to my house and fix it or they would just overnight me the new part, whichever I preferred. I suspect the latter was because a lot of businesses have IT technicians that can service the computers themselves. The 13″ MacBook Pro Retina that I now have is, by contrast, rated as the least repair-friendly laptop on the market, and I wouldn’t dare crack it open myself. But if you know what you’re doing and can perform the automotive equivalent of changing your RAM or hard-disk drive on a computer (very simple processes), I don’t see how it would be an issue for Elio to just send you the component.

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      70 miles daily in that which has not been crash tested? Guess you don’t value your life the way I do. There are better options for sure.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        They will probably never crash test it, being classified a motorcycle. That’s why all these low price / high MPG vehicles come with 3 seats. No airbags, ESC, side impact protection, etc. Hopefully Elio makes this point abundantly clear to prospects; DO NOT expect this to provide the same crash protection as any small car. This is NOT a cut-rate Smart Fortwo, this is an enclosed cycle-trike.

        • 0 avatar

          The vehicle is designed with a passenger cell and crush zones. Essentially, it’s a tube frame roll cage. It will have three airbags and Elio claims it will meet automotive 5 Star crash ratings. As with the entire project, we’ll see what the production vehicle is like.

          • 0 avatar
            jpolicke

            It didn’t look like they could mount an airbag in the steering wheel hub in the picture I saw, although there have been multiple revisions to their prototype. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not criticizing it; I would expect any kind of enclosed structure to offer more safety than a cycle, and give me more protection than my Kwacker. If the Elio can even remotely called crashworthy, it will be quite an achievement.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            “It didn’t look like they could mount an airbag in the steering wheel hub in the picture I saw, although there have been multiple revisions to their prototype.”

            The latest prototype appears to use the steering wheel from the 2010-2011 Camaro…the one with the circular hub that actually spelled out “CAMARO” on it.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Partnering up with a chain like Pep Boys is a great idea rather than trying to coordinate service at their own facilities. Considering how relatively conventional the cars are, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get training requirement compliance. Set them up with a simple claims system and away they go.

    For Elio, it’s the best of worth worlds of a franchise model and direct sales. They keep the retail sales profit, but outsource the fixed costs of a service facility.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Here’s hoping it all works out and they go into production .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    This is a scam and everyone knows, or should know it. There is zero benefit to this vehicle. For $4K you can buy a “station car” which is what this vehicle represents. And spend the rest of the money on the extra fuel. While actually driving something that is not scary small and is not going to fold like a napkin in an impact. If this car was narrow as a bike, then I could see some progress. But at a width of a normal parking space this is a non-starter.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      Zero benefit? Minimal maybe, as the Corbin Sparrow/Merlin proved, but there are pluses. The neato factor alone is something, and many will not consider used. Others legitimately hate buying gasoline beyond financial reasons. Hell, the Elio will come in fun colors.

      I fail to see how this has zero benefit over some ratty Hyundai Accent or whatever. A majority of consumers will indeed be confused and frightened…as they were of hybrids and electrics.

      • 0 avatar
        Stumpaster

        This argument defies logic. A person who can afford $7K on something neato is going to buy a Rolex and not this death trap. Or a Smart which has the same footprint. Hybrids and electrics are not death traps by definition. Whoever hates buying gas beyond financial reasons is already driving the Accent. There will be no “consumers”, unless their plan is to sell 100% in Asia, shipped direct from LA. Which, of course, makes eminent sense.

        • 0 avatar
          slow kills

          You can buy a drab old sexless beater as seen in every parking lot or a bright, shiny new novelty that is totally different. I guess you’re choosing the former.

          There are many consumers, with blood pumping through their veins, that choose things deemed thoroughly unsafe by the Naderite crowd. Motorcyclists are a large part of this. Some people get it. Enough, maybe not.

          • 0 avatar
            Razz44

            The last reservation count I noticed stood at slightly under 17,000 on May 4. I’m sure it has exceeded that number by now. Last weeks gain was 900+.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      I’m assuming a station car is one you drive to the train station and then take the train to work. If you live just outside and work inside a major metropolitan area your post makes absolute sense. But for the other 80% of the population, public transportation is pretty much nonexistent. Most of us commute alone, let their car sit for 9+ hours and then drive home. The Elio (like I said if the numbers jive) would pay for itself in gas savings alone. At that point you could afford to have a 2nd car to fill your non-work-commute needs.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      Elio has one major benefit in congested traffic – rights to use the HOV lane because it’s classified as a motorcycle.

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    I’m so torn over the whole Elio saga to be honest.

    I want it to succeed. I think it has the potential to succeed.

    But Elio’s own estimations for sales seem so wildly ambitious that it really makes me wonder how grounded in reality this project is.

    We’re not talking about a revolutionary electric vehicle like the Tesla Model S. In theory, this should be a slam dunk. But if it’s really so easy, how come it hasn’t been done before, or at least successfully?

    So yeah, very torn. I want it to be real, but I’ve decided to take the “sit back and see” approach.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel Latini

      I know what you mean. A lot of the company’s financial estimates (cost of retail centers, supply chain efficiency) are pretty, uh, “extraordinary” too. I guess we’ll see.

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    They call this “the next big thing in personal transportation”.
    I call it the next big thing in birth control.

    It’s goofy and hideous at the same time.

    If you give your son the keys to this thing, you don’t ever have to worry about any grandkids happening. That is, until he trades it in for an old Camaro, Mustang etc.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      lolwut
      Unless you are looking for women at the senior’s home or trailer park, chicks dig the Prius and have negative interest in old (or even new) muscle cars.

      The Elio will be like walking a cute dog. Chicks will be coming up and starting conversations like mad.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    $6800 is unrealistic. $15,000 is unrealistic unless you have serious volume production and for $15,000, no one will buy it. It’s not real, this is a Ponzi scheme.

  • avatar
    The Dark One

    Shreveport does not even have a PEP BOYS store anymore! It’s been closed for years.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I’m also pulling for them.

    To me, the key to this whole project is the car being able to be classified as a motorcycle because that really gets the government out of the way. $7k-$8k for an enclosed motorcycle is possible.

    If this vehicle was classified as a car, the regulations would kill the entire concept.

  • avatar
    shaker

    It would be amusing to see a 19-year-old Pep Boys mechanic trying to figure out how to get this on a service lift to change the oil.

  • avatar
    zombiehunter113

    This seems to be a modern version of the original Volkswagon Bug concept. When the original VW Bug was invented, was it not to meet the needs of the masses for transportation? Cheap, easy to work on, and universally practical for the time?

    Elio is on to something big here I think. The biggest obstical will be the existing car companies preventing it’s success. The design, safety features, and parts in simple form all seem reasonable. I would love to see a 2 cylinder diesel motor for this, however that would likely drive up the price considerably. As for the safety cage, it’s not new technology, look at dirt track racers, Indy cars, and other spaceframe safety technology.

    I hope they can overcome the odds in the marketplace, because this is a great idea. I can see this being a big seller in California.

    When opening sales locations in California, may I suggest that ‘Northern California’ is not just Sacramento and the Bay area. Redding, CA would be a great place to sell these as many communte from this area 50 to 150 miles and more per day. As for service centers without Manny, Moe, and Jack, how about a deal with Midas? My two very cheap cents.

    I’m all in when manufacturing starts. Proof will be in the pudding, but America really neads this to succeed.


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