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