Hooniverse Asks- Are You Excited about the Elio?

I’m guessing that with stats like a $6,800 MSRP and 84 mpg highway the initial offering from Elio Motors does seem pretty prick-up-your-ears worthy. And after all, they seem to have signed up Pep Boys as their service partners so you know they’re legit. The thing of it is though, we’ve all been burned before by out of this world promises from makers of 3-wheel cars.
You are all probably too young to remember, but I recall what is perhaps the most famous of these, the scam perpetrated by a man on the lam, hiding out as a woman, and conning naive wannabe dealers out of their deposits for the rights to sell the never going to happen Dale. That travesty was the worst, but it wasn’t the first trike that failed to fulfill its promises. Years before there was the Davis, and not that many years ago there was also the wildly ambitious Aptera which went down in financial flames almost as rapidly as it arose.
But maybe the Elio will be different, right? Perhaps they have enough cash on hand to get over that profit-drought that every new start up has to weather in order to maintain a viable business model. I for one am rooting for them. I think what this country needs is a highly efficient personal transportation device that isn’t the Honda Fit. What about you, do you see the Elio as the nation’s automotive savior? Or, is it just another 3-wheel flash in the pan? Are you at all excited about Elio’s prospects?
Image: Ecomodder

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  1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
    PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

    I'd rather buy a Scrambler and have a car pool buddy (or $500 beater) for bad weather.
    Also for the Dale… For a car that was a motorcycle trapped in a car's body, I guess Liz was the best corporate representative to project that blurring of lines…
    <img src="http://i296.photobucket.com/albums/mm176/andlf/ScannedImage-26-2.jpg~original&quot; width="400/">

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      I remember hearing her him interviewed by local Dallas radio talk show host Ed Busch. Busch would interview all kinds of strange people, like Charles Berlitz (of Bermuda Triangle fame) and Erich van Däniken (the Chariots of the Gods guy) back in the early '70s.

  2. eggsalad Avatar

    I'm in the "I'll believe it when I see it" camp. However (re: and interview with Paul Elio on another car blog) even if the car comes in at $9000 and 75mpg, I think it will sell fine. It's not an all-around car, but if a person is in a second-car situation, the Elio seems more logical than, say, a Leaf.
    As a single guy, I can see the combination of an Elio and a $6k used pickup as being a pretty neat solution to solving all of my transportation needs for $15k.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I'm with you on this one. Not unique to history, it all comes down to the price. If they want fancypants money for a fancypants car, they might fail.

    2. frankthecat Avatar

      Same boat, but I'm more motivated by the majority of the driving I do being commuting (which I loathe,) which puts far too many miles on my worn out old Swedish cars. Not to mention they don't get the best gas mileage anyway.
      An affordable NEW alternative would be awesome. I'm rather jaded when it comes to most new vehicles; my income level barring me from most of them anyway.
      I just hope NY doesn't require you to wear a helmet to operate it. Motorcycling endorsement? Fine. I wanted to get mine anyway.

  3. OA5599 Avatar

    I predict one of these will be in the Harrell driveway circa 2047.

    1. FЯeeMan Avatar

      That's only 33 years old, does the good doctor accept anything that young?

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Oh, sure. My standards have grown lax with age; my newest vehicle just turned 32, after all.

  4. P161911 Avatar

    So they are using the old Daewoo service network. The biggest problem will be for states that require a motorcycle license for 3 wheelers. There really needs to be a distinction between a vehicle that you ride IN and one that you ride ON.

    1. Devin Avatar

      It's tricky though, because if it's not a motorcycle they have to meet safety regulations, which is a very expensive process if it can even do it.

    2. mdharrell Avatar

      Washington has such a distinction. If a three-wheeled motorcycle is partially- or fully-enclosed, has a steering wheel instead of handlebars and a seat instead of a saddle, and (if new enough) has seat belts, then no helmet or motorcycle endorsement is required but the vehicle is still plated as a motorcycle. Oregon and California have similar provisions.

  5. humblejanitor Avatar

    It doesn't look safe.
    I'll pass.

  6. Maymar Avatar

    I wouldn't say I'm excited, but I'm certainly intrigued. If it's fun to drive, my attention is had. The only thing that gives me pause is how a cheap, light vehicle from a small startup company will handle degrading roads and the general abuse of winter.
    At the same time, I'm really hoping to get away from the sort of commuting that would justify keeping one of these around, so I know I'm probably projecting some of my dissatisfaction onto that concept.

  7. Lokki Avatar

    I have trouble getting past the Tata Nano problem: for what you pay for one of these you can buy a pretty nice and reliable used car that is much more practical. Then there is the hyper-miler paradox – to save any -significant- amount of money on gasoline you have to drive a lot of miles. If my mental math is right, a guy driving 15,000 miles a year (which I think is the average) would save about $1,000 a year (at $3 a gallon) over a guy getting 30 mpg. Yeah, that's roughly $3 a day but, you could save that by giving up your Starbucks….

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Eh, at $6800, there's not a ton of good, low-mileage cars out there. I mean, it's not impossible, but if you're looking for less than 4 or 5 years old, and less than 100k, there's not a huge amount in that price range (or at least there isn't in my market).
      Looking at it another way (using your calculations), if you drive one of these for 7 years, it's paid for itself.

      1. Lokki Avatar

        I don't know – maybe because Dallas is a big city but two minutes on Craigslist came up with a 2007 Toyota Yaris in excellent condition with 93,000 miles for $6800.
        According to the EPA it even passes the mileage test with 34 mpg combined.
        So, Toyota or unknown brand serviced at Pep Boys (for as long as the deal lasts – See Penske and Smart)?
        Besides, the good crash rating on the Yaris means you won't have to wear a helmet when you drive.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          This reasoning killed East bloc cars in the west, and gave Hyundai and Daewoo a very hard time in their early years in Europe.
          Now, Dacia has done very well with the "new car at used prices"-concept. How? By selling very conservative, old platform Renaults in unprovoking designs.
          Quite the opposite strategy of the one shown above, whatever lesson one takes out of this bit of car history…

        2. Maymar Avatar

          Well, I'll be dammed, we've got a relatively healthy supply of Toyotas meeting that criteria as well. (or, well, skip the 4-5 year old criteria, but there's still a few that meet that as well). I think I might have a bit of a blind spot.

  8. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

    I've been following the Elio story for a couple of years and would like to say I'm excited about it. Was looking at their first prototype and realized that the door panels, the dash, the steering wheel, the engine. . . well, they were all exactly the same as the ones in my back yard. On my Geo Metro.
    That's a Suzuki G10 there, bubba.
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/hzkPgkd.jpg&quot; width="350/">
    That got me a bit excited. The production car has all its own stuff, including a brand new engine that's pretty damned slick.
    And finally, someone is building a high-efficiency car that doesn't make you pay a premium for it (looking at you, VW TDI and Prius) by using simple tech, not some massive R&D effort that gets spread out over the retail price of the car. New tech is great, but it's expensive. A new Prius costs around $24k for efficiency performance (if that's really why you bought it) you can get from a used Metro worth $500. The Commuter Cars brand Tango looks absurd (and I love it for that), and it destroys autocross courses, but CC's plan to get through the start-up cash-crunch phase was to sell its first offerings for $108,000!
    <img src="http://img.timeinc.net/time/daily/2007/0710/commuter_car_tango.jpg&quot; width="350/">
    Consider then that this guy below took his Metro from 56 mpg to 79 mpg just by cutting off half the cabin.
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/7R0Xt6W.jpg&quot; width="350/">
    Elio's $6,800 starting price makes me think it'll actually sell efficient cars to people who actually need efficient cars, rather than only to those for whom efficiency is a sort of fashion statement.
    And then there's the car. I think it's fantastic. Looks great, handles well, cheap to buy and operate, available in manual transmission. Simulations have shown excellent crash test results (I reserve judgement on this until they've actually destroyed a couple).
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/MJ4c4nj.jpg&quot; width="350/">
    Elio's biggest problem, in my not-so-humble opinion, is their PR. For a while there was a weekly Facebook update that was exactly the same content-wise as the previous week's. Their website is a long single page with subheads that open and close and that never changes much.
    Also, there was initially a rather novel way to make your car payments that sounded a bit shady. Some version might still be in the works but I've not seen it in a while (admittedly, haven't been looking). Basically, you commit to buy your gas with an Elio gas card. For every gallon of gas you buy, the card adds, say, 40 cents to the price and that's your car payment. Pretty neat, as long as you pay off the card each month. I assume normal credit card interest rates apply otherwise.
    I want this to work. I would actually buy this car new.
    But I'm not the early-adopter type, so I haven't put down a deposit yet.

    1. pj134 Avatar

      Agreed on all points. If I could replace my sonata with something that gets 4 times the fuel economy (probably 3 with my driving), have cheap insurance and not cost 15k to start I would definitely be interested. Would just buy a retired crown vic p71or an older town car as my "I need to get 3+ people around" car and be set.

    2. FЯeeMan Avatar

      So, if I follow you correctly, this is how I pay for my car:
      At 84MPG, I would use ~1 gallon of gas/day – we'll call it 1 even to make the math simple.
      I buy 5 gallons of gas/week.
      They bill me an extra $2.00/week and apply that as my car payment.
      That's an $8/month car payment.
      MSRP of $6,800 (excluding tax, tag, title, etc. etc. etc) AND interest, it would take me.. takes shoes off… 850 months or 70.8 years to pay this thing off?!?!?!
      What happens when my great-grandkids get tired of getting nasty-gram emails about that piece of junk back in the barn that hasn't run in a couple of decades that Elio wants them to keep paying for?

      1. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

        I've got it wrong by a lot. But it's something like that. Will try to look it up later.

        1. FЯeeMan Avatar

          Somehow, tying payment for an item to the consumption of a commodity it is supposed to minimize the consumption of seems rather an effective method of minimizing time to bankruptcy.

          1. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

            Damn my memory's getting crappy. See Felis's response below. Makes more sense that what was stored between my ears.

    3. Felis_Concolor Avatar

      I recall the financing plan was to charge triple the fill-up rate, which means an Elio buyer would be effectively paying for gasoline at the rate of a car which gets 28 mpg hwy, which would still be better than what the target market demographic tends to drive now.
      Alright, let's say I commute to Denver at the rate of ~125 miles/day (cushy job at the Tech Center; raise that to ~150 miles/day for downtown jobs), which would translate to 625 miles/work week. Round up for short hop errands while home for 650 miles/wk. Adjust slightly for driving inefficiencies and in-town mileage to perhaps 75 mpg for a grand total of 8.7 gallons of fuel per week. At the earlier $4/gallon price, that's $34.80, which would be multiplied to $104.40, making the weekly payment on Elio's gas card $69.60 towards purchase of the vehicle, or $3619.20/year towards the car's purchase price. Looks like you'd be paying things off in 2 years with fuel at that price.
      Taking today's $2/gallon approximation, that becomes $17.40/week which then triples via the gas card to $52.20 and a weekly nut of $34.80 or $1809.60/year, which more than doubles the payback period – but then you're enjoying the full benefits of both cheap fuel and an efficient runabout.

      1. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

        Thank you.

      2. FreeMan Avatar

        Makes more sense, but could still leave the portion of a fairly lengthy layoff period for someone with a short commute. It is also quite variable income for the company and didn't include any sort of interest calculation on the loan.
        Interest plus low use could easily leave someone paying less than the interest they're being charged.

        1. Felis_Concolor Avatar

          You're right on with that analysis, which is why my example used a triple digit daily drive figure to ensure the hypothetical Elio owner was paying a significant amount at the pump already.
          I can see something like this being popular in areas with long commutes, like the service industry catering to Colorado's ski towns. No one who actually works at places like Breckenridge, Vail, Copper, Winter Park or elsewhere in Eagle County and neighboring areas can afford to live there, which gives rise to smaller feeder towns where the cost of living is low enough to make the prospect of an hour's commute through hilly terrain feasible – though I'd never call it palatable.
          My own plan to make an Elio pay for itself will be its novelty; I intend to have mine wrapped with advertising for the business, which will allow me to use depreciation and mileage to my favor as I display my logo and QR code around town.

      3. Sjalabais Avatar

        That's an enormous commute! I don't know where I read that, but I think I remember the average commute in the US is less than 40 minutes? Being realistic about how quick one gets from A to B, the average distance should accordingly be about 50 miles? Does change the equation quite a bit now, doesn't it?

        1. Felis_Concolor Avatar

          For a couple years, I lived in Colorado Springs and commuted to a decent job in Denver assembling, testing and installing computers, peripherals and network components before crunching the numbers and discovering I could stay in town, take a hit of over $100/week and still make more than I was at the tech center.
          I was racking up 130 miles each day, which was on the higher end of the scale but still commonplace since the largest employer in Colorado Springs is the job market in Denver.
          I once lived in Hawaii, and am not surprised to learn Oahu now has the worst commute times; I can't help but point and laugh at their plight. I quickly learned to take the bus downtown to work, then enjoy the best walks home through several parks in the afternoon.

    4. mac350 Avatar

      I like the modified Metro – reminds me of a pre-war speed record car.
      <img src="http://www.hotrodhotline.com/feature/heroes/landspeedracing/07newsletter34/assets/images/autogen/a_EMW_Record_Car.jpg&quot; width="500">

  9. mappo Avatar

    I think this kind of "car" is a great idea, but I call shenanigans on the claim that they can sell a "car" built in the US for less than Honda charges for motorcycles built in Thailand.

    1. pj134 Avatar

      Well it's built and registered as a motorcycle, so I don't know why you put car in quotes.

      1. mappo Avatar

        That's why. I consider it a "car" because it's enclosed, climate controlled and is self balancing, even though it's legally a motorcycle.

  10. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

    Also, looking forward with a smile to see what hotrodders will do with this. I'm sure someone's already got a Hyabusa motor in their garage waiting for the day.
    And Showroom Spec Elio series would be a really cheap way to get into racing.
    <img src="https://gallery.mailchimp.com/24b371802c83d81776b06aa68/images/First_Elio_Prototype1.jpg&quot; width=400>

  11. racer139 Avatar

    But will the front wheel drive ls engine from a Monte Carlo fit in that engine bay. Now that sounds like something that could be a blast.

  12. CherokeeOwner Avatar

    I'm definitely interested in it. At the very least, it's an interesting, unique eco-car that'll stick out from the crowd.

  13. Wildcat_445 Avatar

    Having been to many of Detroit's auto shows and seeing so many prototypes and failed promises (and companies) over the years, I have my doubts that this will ever get off the ground. In other words, a small handful might get produced, but 30 years from now, it'll be fodder for some "Obscure Three-Wheeled Vehicle" series here at Hooniverse. But I do appreciate the effort to attempt to market an affordable fuel-efficient vehicle.
    I realize it's being treated like a motorcycle, but just for safety reasons alone, I think I'd rather just stick to a car. Especially here in the road rage capital of Michigan. I have considered one of the larger maxi-scooters just for running errands locally, but I can't get over that fear of becoming ground beef at the hands of some urban foul-mouthed redneck tailgating his way up the road 30 mph over the speed limit in his pimped-out pickup truck (of which there seems to be an abundance where I live)…

  14. FЯeeMan Avatar

    I think the biggest problem facing all 3-wheelers these days is there is no potential for this.
    [youtube QQh56geU0X8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQh56geU0X8 youtube]

    1. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

      Still got flight potential, though.
      <img src="http://astroengine.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/reliant-robin-space-shuttle.jpg?w=549&quot; width=400>

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      With the two wheels up front and the help of almight kompootärz I guess that the most pressing issues are resolved.


    I've actually toyed with the idea of something like this quite a bit. 99% of my daily commutes involve me and a lunch box. Why am I dragging around 4000 lbs of Jaguar (besides the comfort and power) at 20 mpg (on premium no less)? All of my actual needs for A-B could be solved by something like this, and my consumables cost would instantly go through the floor. I could re-tire the whole car for the $200 I'm currently paying for 1 tire. It would quarter my fuel costs, maybe more. Brake pads would be $40 for the whole car instead of $60 an axle.

    1. CABEZAGRANDE Avatar

      My biggest concern remains safety. If you get in a major accident with a large vehicle in something this small/light, you're going to get very badly hurt. I think of 4000 lb vehicles being literally torn apart from wrecks, I think of applying that force to a sub 2000 lb car with about 6" between me and the outside world, and it's not a pretty picture. But that's worst case scenario. I've gone 15 years of driving with only one major accident, will it ever happen again? I'd be fairly willing to gamble that it wouldn't for the massive reduction in operating costs something like this would bring, so I am very interested in it. But I just don't think the general populace will ever get on board. It will just always be too strange and too unsafe in their eyes. I wish Elio the best, but it's gonna be hard.

  16. Felis_Concolor Avatar

    My position in the reservation line is somewhere between 1000 and 1100, so I guess I'm one of those eager beavers regarding what would become only the 2nd successful new automaker in the US during my lifetime. Living at higher altitude, I look forward to testing out the Elio's capabilities where you're already starting at a 9% power deficit – and yes, there will be trips up Pike's Peak to see if it can even get out of its own way while suffering through more than 20% power loss.
    And if the company's long term prospects turn out to be a bust, I'll just stuff one of Ford's turbo-3s in there and see how many hearts I can break on the track.

    1. Jeff Avatar

      I like your thinking. A Ford turbo swap! A long-term plan to tweak the power before the first production vehicle is sold. Awesome. A true Hoon.

  17. MattC Avatar

    I really want the Elio to succeed. I drive the dreaded NoVa/DC commute and this car would slot perfectly into the perfect commuter car role. (driving by myself in a an unexciting commute , stop an go io the 95/495 mixing bowl).

  18. AndyL Avatar

    I really hope the Elio takes off. As mentioned above, I see no reason to move 4000 lbs. around just to transport a 200 lb. person. The "bigger is safer" argument is more based on cognitive biases than research, also. No only do I hope the Elio is successful, I hope it inspires competitors. Maybe the savings in power requirement afforded by this layout will allow for an affordable electric with a 500 mile range.

  19. mac350 Avatar

    I know I should want an Elio, and I probably would if I were 20 years younger, but I'm already taking one for the team with my wife's 6 year old Scion XD (good economy, Toyota build quality, great service at the Penske owned dealership).I don't have to commute anymore and I already have a couple of motorcycles to hoon on so for my $6k I think I would rather have this for for $5,500. I know I might as well burn the money in the front yard but…
    <img src="http://images.craigslist.org/01717_2NOIYSBISRO_600x450.jpg&quot; width="500"> <a href="http://fayar.craigslist.org/cto/4809496831.html” target=”_blank”>http://fayar.craigslist.org/cto/4809496831.html

  20. bhtooefr Avatar

    I hope it does come to fruition, and if they can actually get it out there, great. Although, not sure if I'd buy one, being FWD and all, and less cargo space than a Miata.
    In my state (Ohio), a motorcycle license is required, and if your motorcycle license is less than a year old, you have to wear a helmet. Elio's been lobbying for an autocycle class in many states, though, that allows for three-wheel enclosed vehicles to not have any motorcycle license or helmet requirement.