This May Be the End for Elio Motors, Finally
A three-wheeled, 84-mpg fuel-sipper was never going to be a wild ride, but the one Elio Motors gave to Shreveport was plain unnecessary.
If its website is any indication, any connection the rest of the world had to Elio Motors has now timed out. The company’s website officially 404’s now, long after its cars effectively did the same.
If you’re new to the name Elio Motors, you’re not alone. The small automaker started more than a decade ago with a supremely lofty goal: 84 mpg, three wheels, for less than $7,000. Since 2009, not much more than a promise has ever materialized from Elio Motors or its founder, Paul Elio, despite assurances that something—anything—was just around the corner. We reached out to Elio Motors and they replied: "The tech team is aware and working on it, thanks for the heads up though, we appreciate it. And yes, we are still here grinding every day to make the Elio a reality."
That an automotive startup flounders isn’t especially remarkable. When it drags a town along with it, it is. When it initially launched, Elio secured space in a former General Motors assembly plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, by promising more than 1,500 manufacturing jobs in the town by the end of 2015. Elio paid for its lease through stock in its company—stock that’s effectively worthless now—and raised more than $100 million to build its cars. Pre-production three-wheeler prototypes were spotted, but nothing more than show cars that showed the company could make something from more than $100 million in startup funding. Last year, the company reported a $10 million loss in the first six months, according to the Phoenix Business Journal.
First blaming the economy, then blaming lower gas prices, then blaming the consistently expensive business of building cars, Elio pushed back production of its cars from 2015 to 2017 and said it needed to raise more than $300 million for production. Pressed by local authorities and legislators, Elio never answered how he was awarded a prime sublease at the GM plant, what he planned to do with the money and tax breaks he was offered, and when his promise to workers laid off in 2012 by GM would finally pay off.
“This has not happened on the time frame we thought. There have been a lot of obstacles, but we’ve hung in there,” Elio said in 2016, according to the Shreveport Times. “We don’t give up.”
Getting fined in 2017 for unlicensed sales, Elio consistently failed to provide details on its plan to do much more than sell off tooling in the GM plant it occupied. Then, in 2018, the company announced a bizarre cryptocurrency plan and venture with Overstock.com to fund the development of the same car 8 years later. By then, the economy and gas prices had significantly changed since 2009, when Elio announced his plans, but the company maintained it would make good on its promises to Shreveport, Louisiana, and sustainability. That predictably failed, and in 2021 the last gasp from Elio came by way of an electric version of its car, called the Elio-E, and more promises of production.
“We are planning on starting production with the Elio-E to take advantage of both financial investment opportunities and consumer demand in the electric market. Hundreds of institutional investors are looking to invest in the electric vehicle market. After the Elio-E is funded and there is sufficient demand left, we will launch a gas version shortly thereafter,” the company wrote on its Facebook page in 2021, its most recent post.
It's unclear what, if anything, Elio has done with the deposits and money it collected over numerous rounds of funding nor is it clear what the future will be for its cars or plant in Shreveport. If its website is any indication, Elio’s future can be summed up in two concise and accurate words: “Not Found.”
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Update: This story has been updated with a comment from Elio.