By on August 13, 2016

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.

Elio Motors 2016 NAIAS, Image: © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

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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69 Comments on “Elio Motors Three-Wheeler: Yours for $7,300 — Sort Of...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Are all those guys standing behind the white Elio the elves that built it? Old elves.

  • avatar
    pbxtech

    Seems like fun for $7K. If I have room, I’ll probably pick one up for the yucks.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      For the price, it makes an idea traffic-is-stopped-and-I-need-a-motorcycle-for-the-carpool-lane-but-I-don’t-want-to-die-in-a-fender-bender vehicle

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        I’m betting that these things flood the 2nd hand market. People will realise that they need to carry more than 2 people and a laptop bag and they’re wondering why so little utility still takes up the footprint of a normal car.

        • 0 avatar
          MrGreenMan

          I am on the reservation list for one of the non-refundable lower increments, so I don’t have a number yet.

          However, my intention is to let go of my backup car if this materializes.

          I already keep the nice car in the garage and drive the backup car for commuting – why put too many miles on something nice, when the backup car was nice enough? – and, it really is just me and a laptop bag 250 days a year.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe Btfsplk

      I’d spend my $7K on a used Miata. More fun per dollar than almost anything else on the road!

      • 0 avatar

        For $7K, can you find a Miata that has a warranty?

        • 0 avatar
          Acd

          A used Miata usually doesn’t need a warranty. There are lot of $7000 used cars I’d be much more comfortable with than an Elio Whatever-they’re-calling-it regardless of warranty coverage.

        • 0 avatar
          Shane Rimmer

          I think an out of warranty Miata is a far safer bet than an all-new vehicle that, last I checked, was planning to do warranty work through Pep Boys. Since they’ve decided to develop their own engine, it’s going to be some time before aftermarket parts become available.

          What’s really going to hurt is if there’s some critical recall on the Elio. I can easily imagine a very long wait for those warranty repairs.

          • 0 avatar
            indi500fan

            2 of the 3 PEP Boys in my metro are located in areas where you want to bring your pit bull and Glock along just in case. Is that typical nation wide? If so, buyers might want to upgrade to the concierge service plan.

        • 0 avatar
          InterstateNomad

          You can get a Miata (or Neon, etc etc) for less than 7k and pocket the extra money for repairs (or mods). That said I have never tried riding this Elio and have only seen youtube reviews…maybe it is worth that much fun?

          • 0 avatar

            Nobody will know for sure what the Elio drives like till we get access to the preproduction prototypes they are currently building, though I should get a better idea this week or next when I hope to drive their P5, which has their own engine, a production spec transmission, and a front suspension that’s close to production design. The videos mentioned in the post say the steering is a bit heavy at slow speeds, which is what I said when I drove the P4. I think that with power assist and a smaller steering wheel it could be more fun to drive but 55 hp is still just 55 hp.
            One reason I’ve been following Elio is that I think it does have the opportunity to become a poor man’s Morgan 3 Wheeler. Reverse trikes can be made to handle well and there are plans to add a turbo to the engine later on.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    That’s ok, I’d rather take that money and spend it in Vegas, at least, I’ll have some fun while it lasts. I don’t like gambling with the odds so against me.

  • avatar
    thelastdriver

    Considering nice examples of Geo Metro/Suzuki Swift are $2k why would anyone buy this? The gamble of new tech versus wrenching on old is tilting towards the Geo. Those things have been on the road 20+ years, nearly as efficient, and are actually useful… as a car!

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      Because it’s technically a motorcycle, and motorcycles get to go in the carpool/HOV lane.

      • 0 avatar
        thelastdriver

        I live in Cleveland. We think about rust and having four inline wheels that’ll track in snow over traffic.

        Never had to deal with commuting in lanes that required extra humans/sex dolls.

        • 0 avatar
          thelastdriver

          As for your carpool situation buy a real car and take your waifu everywhere.

          • 0 avatar

            A waifu may sit in the back, but I think a genuine issue Elio faces is that today’s women are just not going to want to sit in the back. It’s not the same as riding tandem on a motorcycle. She may be, as the indelicate phrase goes, “riding b!tch”, but she can be styling on a bike. If a guy shows up to pick up his date in an Elio trike, unless she’s really attracted to non-conformists, I don’t think it’s going to work.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Thanks for looking out for today’s women, Ronnie!

        • 0 avatar

          The Elio trike is front wheel drive so it should track just fine in regular winter conditions. The prototypes have all been fabricated in the Detroit area and they’ve been driven in snow. The company has even released promotional videos to show consumers that it can be a practical winter vehicle, but that wasn’t in deep snow. I suppose in really deep snow, the rear wheel might be plowing instead of tracking but after driving in more than 45 Michigan winters, if the snow’s that deep (6″ or more) I’d say that you probably shouldn’t be on the roads in the first place.

          However, your comment has gotten me thinking about how one could design a trike with three wheel drive. I suppose you could use a conventional FWD based AWD transaxle and run the rear driveshaft back to a swing arm cribbed from a Gold Wing, or copy Morgan’s rear drive.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “and they’ve been driven in snow”

            Everyone accustomed to snow state driving should go to YouTube and watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQRktJtrgHs

            It’s so cute! Those aren’t snowy roads; they’re what’s left after snowy roads were plowed.

            (had to jam the link next to the text like that because it got auto-deleted when standing alone)

            BTW, when do we get crash test videos? Or does “motorcycle” status exempt Elios?

          • 0 avatar

            Regarding crash testing, Elio Motors says that some of the 23 E series prototypes they’re building now will be used for crash testing. It will be interesting to see what tests they do and what results they publish.

          • 0 avatar
            TonyJZX

            They easily make a 3 wheel drive Elio.

            Put in a small battery pack and motor to power the back wheel.

            PHEV here we come.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            An interesting conversion would be to replace the front wheels with tracks and the back with a ski.

            https://www.mattracks.com/photos/index.php/Trucks
            https://www.mattracks.com/vehicles/

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            @TonyJZX: That’s brilliant. The Elio becomes a hybrid, eligible for tax breaks. They’ll be practically giving them away!

  • avatar

    People spend $20,000+ on a Polaris Slingshot, so…

  • avatar
    TAP

    The ’68 Beetle was an actual car, with 4 wheels, 4 cylinders, and 4 seats.
    This “thing” will be an invisible highway commuter, runover by the first texting pickup driver.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    With one of those raised pickups, dump truck or an 18 wheeler next to me, I’d be scared $hitless to be in one of these things.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    Be sure to sign your organ donor card if you get one of these.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Hmm 3 wheels.. wonder if prone to tipping over like a Reliant Robin?

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      OMG.. I google imaged that. They were just taking nosedives all over that island!

      Who else remembers the Arte Johnson tricycle dive?

    • 0 avatar

      The Reliant Robin has two wheels in back and one in front, the least stable trike configuration. Providing there’s enough forward weight bias, reverse trikes can be stable enough to drift. Morgan 3 Wheelers can do donuts. I suppose that a regular trike configuration might work if you put enough weight on the back, along with a wide track and wide tires in the back. That’s how the DeltaWing, which is close to a trike, stays on the ground.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Appears to be more tangible than the Dale!

    • 0 avatar

      I had the opportunity to photograph the Dale “prototype” in the basement of the Petersen museum. The Dale was a scam from the get go. Elio’s first prototype was more functional than the Dale pushmobile.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        If you pushed the open-wheel front wheels into their usual position inside the front fender, then painted it yellow, it would have quite a visual resemblance to the Dale actually. Except that this thing runs….

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        Yes, it was a big scam, but sure looked good on paper! I recently saw a recounting of the scam, “masterminded” by a con man who had fled local jurisdiction when it all began falling apart. He was finally captured (masquerading as a woman when caught) while living in the South. Being proactive before serving time in prison, I guess.

        I actually have a sales brochure of the darned thing that my father had hung on to, I have stuck away in the archives somewhere… the Dale pictured was yellow, I think it was the only one, complete with wooden frame, etc.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Why the “open” wheels/fenders? Convering the front ought to make for better aero, a nice sized frunk, and less risk to suspension and axles in the front.

    By parking in an alternating fashion, you should be able to fit about twice as many Elios in a given parking lot, as “regular” cars. More if the Elios have the kind of tight turning radius a ‘car” like this ought to have. Combine that with HOV access and, if the “cars” prove reliable enough, I bet at least some San Francisco companies will encourage their employees to get one, by holding out a reserved parking spot as a carrot….. Assuming San Franciscans are physically capable of learning such advanced driving skills as backing into parking spaces, that is….. :)

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      Yeah, I don’t get this configuration at all either. The width of a real car without the practicality of one. Making my passenger sit behind me would feel all wrong. (somehow it doesn’t on a two-wheeler be it a motorcycle or a tandem bicycle, but it does in a car).

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Having your passenger beside you is moot anyway. Once the benches were removed for buckets and the giant console was installed, canoodling was impossible in the front seat. Now designers are extending those massive consoles through to the back seat! Don’t car designers know the real purpose of cars?

        Sure, that was the OLD days, when kids had to leave the house to canoodle, but now with poor millennials back living at home, a spacious back seat is needed more than ever. The Elio doesn’t measure up in that respect, and I’ll bet it has a terrible wheel bounce too.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      You mean like the Corbin Sparrow, but with a gas engine?

      • 0 avatar

        There’s a company called Electra Mechannica or something that’s trying to revive the Corbin Sparrow at a price point of around $20K if I’m not mistaken. Frankly, as much as I think the Elio is rolling birth control, the Corbin Sparrow is much more dorky looking.

        • 0 avatar
          GeneralMalaise

          A little off topic, but does anybody know anything about these Porsche replicas (550 Spyder?) that they make now (I think made in SoCal) that you can have equipped with an air-cooled VW on up to a Subie motor? Intriguing to me, but am curious to read or hear of any experiences with ownership.

    • 0 avatar

      Covering the entire front end would make for worse aero. The narrow cabin is for highway aerodynamics. Total drag is a product of cd and frontal area. A tandem cabin and outrigger wheels yields better fuel economy than a fully enveloped front end.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Looks like a 3 wheeled coffin.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Keeping the tires properly inflated looks to be a pain.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    Ronnie—-thanks for keep the folks up to date on this interesting alternative vehicle. It’s certainly not everybody’s cup of tea but requires no infrastructure or consumer habit changes to make it happen.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I have always found the Elio to be an intriguing idea, and a cheap high mileage alternative for the <35 mph commuter of today's crowded highways. I am also impressed Elio is able to get around 84mpg from an I3 when Ford's Ecoboost I3 wonder can only manage 37 combined:

    https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2013/10/29/2014-ford-fiesta-with-new-1-0-liter-ecoboost-engine-sets-new-ben.html

    What sort of drivetrain is Elio using, does anyone know?

    • 0 avatar

      The Fiesta weighs at least twice the Elio’s target weight of 1,250 lbs and Ford’s Ecoboost triple is tuned to put out the power of a NA four. Based around the architecture of the Suzuki triple used in the Swift and Geo Metro, IAV designed Elio a modern SOHC engine that’s got 0.9 L of displacement and will put out 55 hp and about the same amount of torque. It’s small enough that one of their business partners is going to be marketing it for genset applications.

      Understand the 84 mpg figure is for highway mileage. Elio is predicting something closer to 50 mpg for city driving.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    OK once more, who makes production delivery #1 first?

    Elio
    Tesla 3
    Mitsu PHEV

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I think it would make a great commuter and with its HOV status, it should prove popular in high congestion cities. I’d be curious to know how it holds up in rough weather or in cases like passing a semi truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Mama

      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.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    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.


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