Elio Motors Three-Wheeler: Yours for $7,300 - Sort Of

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
elio motors three wheeler yours for 7 300 sort of

For the past few years, startup Elio Motors has said that the “target price” of their enclosed tandem three wheeler was $6,800. As the company and their vendors finalize the design of the production vehicle and seek financing for that production, Elio has announced a “locked in” base price of $7,300, though that price for now only applies to the first 65,000 reservation holders (and it appear that those who already have placed reservations may pay as little as $7,000).

Since more than 56,000 people have already put down reservations for the Elio trike, if you want to buy an Elio and lock in that $7,300 price, there are fewer than 9,000 slots remaining. There was no word on what the price will be after the first 65,000 are reserved.

The pricing announcement is tied to the company’s still active application for a $185 million loan from U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. After going through $93 million since the company’s founding in 2009, Elio Motors is still about $200 million short of what they need to start production. In June 2016, the DOE revised guidelines for ATVM loan applicants, requiring startups to demonstrate market acceptance with firm sales commitments. By announcing a firm MSRP, Elio Motors can start accepting binding purchase commitments from their non-refundable reservation holders. The company hopes that the $350 million in potential sales represented by current reservation holders will sway the DOE once those holders are converted to customers with signed agreements.

While Elio Motors is promoting this as an opportunity for reservation holders to lock in at this price, without setting an actual price, they can’t have actual purchase agreements. Elio takes both refundable and non-refundable deposits on reserving production Elio trikes at levels of $100, $250, $500 and $1,000. The company says that the “vast majority” of their reservations are non-refundable.

One presumes that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of signed commitments will help the company raise financing through other means as well. Elio raised about $17 million in a Reg A+ stock sale early this year. Opening at $14 a share, Elio’s stock has leveled off at just under $20 per share, giving the company a market cap of just over $500 million. Company insiders have been close-mouthed about possibly selling off some of their privately held shares to raise production funds.

Word of the increased price is bound to provoke criticism from Elio skeptics and disgruntled reservation holders already unhappy over repeated delays in production. To mollify those critics, Elio Motors points out that in 1968, a Volkswagen Beetle had a MSRP of $1,699 in the United States. In 2016 dollars that would be $11,767.92. So, even at the higher announced price, the Elio trike would be about 40 percent cheaper than a ’68 Beetle, adjusted for inflation.

The news also follows a couple of somewhat embarrassing but also positive media test drives of Elio’s P5 prototype, the first with their own 0.9 liter 55 hp three cylinder engine. Bob Sorokanich of Road and Track was actually rather impressed with the way it drove, but it lost one of it’s outrigger front fender/wheelcovers, bringing the test drive on Manhattan streets to an early halt. Elio Motors blamed a non-production design fender mount that they say was designed to ease removal for trailering the trike on their promotional road tour.

FastCompany’s Noah Robischon says it is “the weirdest sounding vehicle I’ve ever driven in, by far.” I guess he’s too young to have driven a Geo Metro, but to my ears the Elio triple sounds much like every other small three-cylinder engine made for small cars. It isn’t as musical as a Ferrari V12 or a small block Chevy, but weird? Hardly.

He also thought it was noisy and harsh as low speeds, the same wheelcover that fell off for R&T rattled, and the center steering position was hard to get used to, so Robischon didn’t think it would make a good city vehicle, but he did say that as a highway commuter it could make “a pretty sweet ride.”

Elio’s road tour takes the P5 prototype to Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise next weekend. I’m hoping to schedule TTAC’s own test drive of the P5 while it’s in town and I’ll report back with my own impressions should that occur.

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4 of 69 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Aug 14, 2016

    I don't think that this would be a very stable car on the interstate unless it is used short distances. A semi would blow this car all over the road. A commuter car or to use for short trips yes. I wouldn't mind getting one of these used.

    • See 1 previous
    • My 1800lb Insight is only slightly heavier and is mostly unperturbed by crosswinds and semis. Based on that I'd guess the Elio is too. One point nobody seems to be making is that this is much, much safer than a motorcycle, and motorcyclists like me make lengthy trips on the interstate all the time. I reckon that Americans have gotten too soft, too inured to comfort in their commutes and don't want to drive vehicles that take a tiny bit of effort and stamina. Maybe when I'm old(er) I'lll change my tune... Reading the specs, I'm chuffed to see the Elio includes stability control and ABS. That's f'ing awesome. If I didn't already own three 2-seaters I'd be on the waiting list too.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Aug 15, 2016

    This thing will be as successful as the "Dale" (go look it up). I have utter contempt for 3-wheel city-cars, but have total lust for a Morgan (gas and EV). I guess because the Morgan makes no bones about being an insane and dangerous bit of fun. Whereas these trikes try to convince you you're being responsible by driving it.

  • Dave M. Once again Mustang remains solely on the throne. But obviously the day of the ponycar has long passed....
  • Art Vandelay The car so nice they killed it…twice
  • Ryan The hybrid EX model lists at about CAD$39,000 in Canada, including delivery charges. No Premium package is available for it here.
  • Golden2husky A great driver's car let down by down right dangerous visibility - in any version. Had the Camaro had a qulity interior and acceptable visibility we'd have one in our driveway as my wife loves the way they look and drive.
  • Analoggrotto Does it include a date with Mary Barra?