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Elio three-wheel prototype revealed

Two-passenger vehicle expects five-star safety rating.

By AutoWeek May 9, 2013 9:50AM

Elio Motors unveiled a prototype of its two-passenger, three-wheeled vehicle Wednesday, confirming the all-new vehicle will have a $6,800 base price when it goes on sale in June 2014.

Paul Elio, company founder and CEO, said the vehicle is targeted at first-time or cash-strapped buyers, as well as for families who already have a family car and are seeking something inexpensive for daily commuting.

Its sub $7,000-base price makes it almost half the price of the cheapest car in the U.S. -- the base Nissan Versa, which carries a $12,780 price tag after shipping charges -- and Elio says its quirky three-wheel design cuts weight and improves aerodynamics to help it achieve 49 mpg in the city, 84 mpg on the highway.

Engineering details are still being tweaked, but Elio said the vehicle weighs less than 800 pounds and will likely be powered by a 1.0-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine, with power transferred to the front wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission. Top speed is in excess of 100 mph, and the 0-60 mph time is under 9.6 seconds.

The vehicle can be registered as a motorcycle because it has less than four wheels, but Elio says most states will not require a motorcycle license to operate the vehicle, although but the company still recommends checking with your state.

Elio said the vehicle meets every necessary four-wheel vehicle safety requirement.

Federal safety ratings aren't issued until after the car is put into production, but Elio expects to receive a five-star rating. The vehicle has a full steel frame, antilock braking system and three airbags that create a "cocoon," Elio said.

With a 110-inch wheelbase and 161 inches in length overall, its not too far from the 2013 Honda Civic sedan, which has a 105.1-inch wheelbase and is 179.4-inches overall.

We got a chance to sit inside the Elio, and even climbed into the second-row seat. Despite its diminutive looks, there was plenty of head and shoulder room once inside. The tall greenhouse and large windows kept us from feeling claustrophobic while sitting in the back.

They have even considered cargo space, with a fold-down back seat that Elio says can make room for a set of golf clubs.

Elio also announced a unique financing option. Buyers can receive a credit card with a $300 limit that is solely for the vehicle's fuel sales. Each time the card is used, Elio would add an extra amount to use to pay back the loan. For example, a $10 fuel purchase would appear as $30 on a credit card statement, with $20 being used to pay back the loan. More information on this program will be available closer to the vehicle's launch.

The three-wheeler will have a national launch after production begins in June of 2014. Production will be in a former General Motors assembly plant in Shreveport, La.

Elio said they are predicting a whopping 250,000 units to be sold per year. He admitted that that is a "nutty number," but said that the vehicle should catch the attention of new-car shoppers with its low base price and quirky design.

They are off to a good start, as Elio said there are already 13,000 units reserved.

-- Angie Fisher

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May 10, 2013 10:27AM
I see the future of automotive transportation here.   Gas prices are going to do nothing but rise.  For those who can think ahead, India has just started to come on line as an oil consuming nation.  I see gas prices rise as high as $4 a gallon in the next 2-3 years and this will be a norm.  Elio has a vision, much like Ford did.   Ford had his skeptics and nay sayers.  
May 10, 2013 5:44AM

i am sure this is considered a motorcycle.

just a skinned clone of a can am spyder.

the idea is great.

May 13, 2013 10:08AM
The other very important point to mention is Mr. Elio has decided to manufacture it right here in the United States of America.  Putting Americans to work!  Thank-you Mr. Elio
May 10, 2013 5:30AM
Too bad it is a slush box. A real stick shift would make it more fun to drive, even less expensive, easier to maintain, and make people actually pay attention to driving rather than texting or playing with their smart phone etc.... I have seen some info on this and A/C will be avaialble. I hope AC and a slush box will allow it to be quick enough to survive in traffic.
May 9, 2013 5:25PM
I have been looking for something JUST like this for about 6 months now. When it comes out, I may be in line for a test drive. And if they include rear space for an extra passenger and/or personal goodies, I'm all over it! Hope thay'll produce aHybrid version also.
May 10, 2013 3:47PM
Their web site actually lists five speed manual or 5 speed automatic as options. So, yeah...I'll take the manual...can't wait! wroom, wroom
May 10, 2013 1:46PM
So that's were the designers from Oldsmobile went!!!
May 9, 2013 1:43PM
I want one ! Don't tease  me now with your Gov. restrictions .
May 17, 2013 8:19AM

Some say this is a very Niche market car. That requires a response. I'll respond with a short story about overcomming resistance.
In the 80's Western Washingtin University entered a high gas milage competition with a low ridding two seat vehicle, Viking4. At the time two seaters were seen as only suitible for a sportcar by many. During the race there was a pit stop at a gas-station on the route, where the V4 had stopped.
A young woman, child in arms, spotted the car and pressed the driver with a question, "Who wants this? Where would I put my kids, and my groceries?"
The driver was not detered, he answered quite promptly, "It gets 110miles per gallon."
The woman only hesitated one second and said, "Oh, I can put my kids there, and my groceries there and...."

May 10, 2013 4:21AM
This is cool looking and makes financial sense, but a five star safety rating?? Come one, you don't expect us to swallow that, if this thing hits anything head on or gets T-boned by a real vehicle's weight, I doubt the occupants will survive. Even if it has a super strong cage, any full size SUV or truck is going to slam its front bumper right through the windshield or side windows. This is essentially a three wheeled motorcycle with a cabin.
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