The long-suffering Elio Motors, whose ambition to launch a low-cost, high-MPG three-wheeler was recently revived by the launch of a weird cryptocurrency, is no longer seeking a custom engine for its novel automobile.
Early Elio prototypes carried a transplanted three-cylinder engine sourced from the illustrious Geo Metro, with the fledgling automaker claiming it had a 900cc triple of 55 horsepower in its sights. Well, plans change. The company, which hopes to start production in Louisiana next year, says it has secured a deal with an existing automaker for the car’s powerplant.
Earlier this year, Elio Motors said it would launch its own cryptocurrency as a way of funding its troubled three-wheeler. During the initial ElioCoin announcement in April, Elio also said it partnered with Overstock.com to relieve some of its debt. The website claimed it purchased $2.5 million of the startup’s newly issued shares.
As helpful as a few million dollars would be toward progressing Elio’s goals, the cryptocurrency plan seemed patently ridiculous. We didn’t expect to hear much more about it.
Color us surprised, though. Elio has now formally launched the pre-sale of the ElioCoin Security Token, noting that Patrick M. Byrne — Overstock.com’s founder and CEO — will be the first person to open up his wallet to participate in this strange new offer.
The past year hasn’t been particularly kind to Elio Motors, the startup trying to launch an economical enclosed-tandem, front-wheel drive three-wheeler. The company seems to be no closer to starting production and in fact has shuttered most of their operations, including assembly of their production-validation prototypes, and laid off most of their staff, to concentrate on raising the money they need to start building trikes.
For a while Elio was flying high. They had over 60,000 reservations and a Reg A+ stock offering raised $16 million. That stock quadrupled in price and briefly gave the company a billion-dollar valuation. Then, starting late in 2016, a pattern started forming. Some kind of bad news for Elio would appear on folks’ screens, either another production delay, a SEC filing with ominous-sounding boilerplate, or local politicians in Louisiana, where Elio promised to start building vehicles in what was formerly a GM assembly plant in Shreveport, would start complaining about a lack of progress. The bad news would get amplified by Elio’s critics, and their over-the-counter stock price would take a hit. A year ago the OTC shares were pretty stable at around $20/share. Down from the high of $60, but still significantly above the initial offering price of $14/share. By the end of 2016, however, it had dropped to about $15/share and since then it’s had a series of drops to about $8, then $7 and most recently about $5/share. Elio seemed headed for penny-stock status, or worse.
As TTAC reported recently, Elio Motors disclosed in its most recent annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission it needs an additional $64 million to begin series production of its first vehicle at a former General Motors assembly plant in Shreveport, Louisiana. This is on top of the $312 million it previously stated it required to bring the high-mileage trike to reality.
That isn’t the worst news.
In the filing, Elio Motors announced it was laying off sales and engineering personnel to conserve resources as it focused on securing more financing, primarily through the sale of stock and taking on more debt. An unnamed vendor is also in a payment dispute with Elio Motors, and the company is running a $100+ million deficit.
“Sure, there’s bad news,” Elio said on a phone call with TTAC, “but there’s also good news in the annual report that people are ignoring.”
Remember Elio Motors? If you’ve ever expressed any public interest in its economical three-wheeler, the company’s aggressive social media campaign has ensured Elio is a household name in your life. You may also recall the company pushing back the vehicle’s release date every single year since 2014. With a revised launch of 2018, surely Elio Motors is on track to deliver the affordable and eco-friendly little trike this time — right?
Don’t bet on it.
After an assessment showing the company had $123 million in debt with only $101,000 in the bank as of September 2016, the future is now even more dire. Elio Motors’ U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing shows the company needs $376 million — $64 million more than the original previous $312 million estimate — to begin production, reports Jalopnik.
Worse still, it only has 76 weeks to find the money if it has any hope of maintaining its self-imposed deadline.
Last year, Storm Sondors, a Malibu-based entrepreneur, used an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to launch a very basic $499 electric bicycle. He’s since sold 15,000 of his Asian-made electric bikes.
Buoyed by that success, Mr. Sondors has announced the creation of the Sondors Electric Car Company, which he says will sell an electric-powered, aluminum-bodied, three-passenger, enclosed reverse trike with a variety of battery pack options that offer 50 to 200 miles of range.
The Sondors electric trike is supposed to have a starting price of $10,000 and will be called the Model Sondors, more likely a nod to Tesla than to Henry Ford.
The folks over at Gas2.org think the Model Sondors is everything the proposed Elio is not. I agree with that statement, though not in the same way as Gas2go’s Steve Hanley.
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.
While it’s still a $200 million dollar question if Elio Motors will raise enough money to start production of its low-cost, high-mile-per-gallon tandem enclosed reverse trike, the automotive startup took a major step towards building vehicles for sale with completing the first (of 23) E series prototype. Elio will use it for testing and refinement of the final production design.
Though it looks very much like the P5, the E series trikes have fully engineered unibody construction made of stamped steel panels, unlike the previous five Elio prototypes that were scratch built with tubed space frames. The E series prototypes aren’t what the industry calls validation builds (there will be a 100 of those assembled at Elio’s Shreveport factory by the end of this year, Elio claims), but they’re very close to production designs.
It looks like the makers of three-wheelers are trying hard to get the attention of car and light-truck consumers.
Last month, at the Chicago Auto Show, Polaris had a couple of trikes on display. Immediately adjacent to the Slingshot display, Campagna was showing its T-Rex and newly introduced Harley-Davidson-powered VR13R. The Polaris starts at just under $20,000 and the T-Rex is about three times that price.
Interestingly, the New York International Auto Show, often chosen by high-priced car manufacturers for reveals, also featured two reverse trikes, but at the lower end of the price spectrum: the electric Arcimoto SRK (target price of $11,000) and the gasoline powered Elio (targeted at $6,800).
Elio Motors Says It Will Sell 100 Pre-Production Prototypes to Fleets, Delays "Consumer" Production Till 2017
In a move that has already generated criticism from disappointed deposit holders, Elio Motors announced that production of its enclosed tandem three-wheelers will be delayed, yet again, to an undisclosed date sometime in 2017.
In a statement issued on Friday, Elio Motors said, “the bulk of the consumer launch will have to be moved into 2017 at a date to be determined, as the company continues to seek additional funding.”
Ironically, that delay was made public as the company appeared to make progress towards getting at least some vehicles built in Shreveport later this year. Founded in 2009, Elio had previously announced production dates of 2014 and more recently the end of 2016.
(Caveat: I know nothing at all about stocks, bonds or other financial instruments.)
After automotive startup Elio Motors raised approximately $17 million dollars in a Reg-A+ stock offering the company crowdsourced from small investors via StartEngine, it said its shares would be listed on the OTCQX exchange to provide those investors with liquidity.
It’s probably too early to call Elio another Tesla (whose own market capitalization probably exceeds its actual value), and I don’t know how many of those investors are going to sell their stock so soon. But, if they did, they would have more than doubled their money in less than two weeks as of Monday’s close.
The small crew of folks who make up Elio Motors brought the latest, fifth generation, developmental prototype of their reverse trike to the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Paul Elio gave a press conference going over what progress the company has made moving towards actual production, including some details about their recent stock offerings that will fund the building of 25 pre-production prototypes.
I’ll get to the press release stuff in a bit. First I want to talk about the car, errr, autocycle, and the third-class of motor vehicles for which the company is lobbying regulatory acceptance.
My late father told me that few people are as passionate as converts who’ve become disaffected. Some of the most vocal critics of the Elio Motors startup are former supporters, people who put down money on reservations, only to be disappointed by repeated delays in starting production.
Paul Elio most recently said production is slated to begin sometime late this year — that is if they can get the money to do it.
However, those disaffected folks were abuzz this week over a post at Green Car Congress that said a proposed rule change by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would classify three-wheeled vehicles as automobiles. That would require Elio Motors’ three-wheeler to comply with all the same Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards of four-wheeled cars.
I guess I cover the reverse trike beat here at TTAC.
It started with a post about a Chinese death trap three-wheeler I’d seen advertised. In the comments to that post, one of our readers suggested looking into the Elio project. We’ve done that a few times since then, including an exclusive review of one of their prototypes. Because of our coverage of Elio Motors, a group of Elio deposit holders who have become disenchanted by continued production delays asked us to consider their charges. While it’s true that I’m in what may be a minority of automotive writers that don’t think Elio is a scam, I’m not naive. There are ample reasons for skepticism and we take the word truth in our title seriously, so Mark Stevenson and I looked into the critics’ complaints and we both decided they were adding nothing new to issues raised by Elio’s critics before.
However, I do keep tabs on their Facebook group, which is how I found out about Arcimoto, a Eugene, Oregon company that hopes to put their highway capable electric reverse trike in production by the end of next year with a starting price of $11,900.
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