Elio Motors: First-Ever Auto-Show Press Event In NYC Touts '84-MPG' Three-Wheel Car

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Startup automaker Elio Motors put on its first-ever car-show press conference last week, taking the last slot on Thursday's media schedule at the New York Auto Show.

Founder and CEO Paul Elio appeared at a simple podium in front of a bright-orange prototype Elio three-wheeled vehicle.

He spoke briefly, then answered questions from the press.

DON'T MISS: Elio 84-MPG Three-Wheel Prototype: Driven In Parking Lot: Video (Jun 2014)

There was none of the dramatic music, special lighting effects, and other showmanship used by the major manufacturers.

Elio's small booth was somewhat obscured by the trucks, commercial vehicles, and car-customizer displays occupying the basement level of the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

Still, a few dozen reporters showed up to hear what Elio had to say about his company and his car.

Elio Motors founder Paul Elio at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015

Elio Motors founder Paul Elio at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015

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He started with a discussion of the deposits the company had taken. It got 5,000 in the first year after it announced its plans to produce the three-wheeled economy car, he said.

But Year Two produced another 33,000 deposits. And as of the end of March, Elio said the company had taken more than 41,000 deposits.

He said later that he believes "we have a shot at" going as high as 250,000 reservations before Elio starts production--which means it would have its entire first-year production capacity pre-sold.

DON'T MISS: Fuel-Efficient Elio Three-Wheel Car Hits 15,000 Orders Before Production Starts (Apr 2014)

Elio Motors has applied for a low-interest loan from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program.

That's the same program that gave loans to Fisker Automotive, Ford, Nissan, and Tesla Motors in 2009.

Fisker defaulted, costing the Energy Department more than $100 million; Tesla repaid its loan in full several years early; and Ford and Nissan are paying down their loans on schedule.

Elio Motors prototype at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015

Elio Motors prototype at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015

Enlarge Photo

But while the department recently said it hoped to relaunch the program, it hinted that loans would go only to auto-industry suppliers--not to automakers themselves.

An application from the huge global aluminum company Alcoa has been accepted for review, and that company is thought to be a likely recipient of the first loan since 2010.

Asked if Elio Motors needed the ATVM loan to move forward with production of the car, CEO Elio said simply, "Yes."

MORE: DoE Reboots Advanced Auto-Tech Loan Program That Funded Ford, Nissan, Tesla, Fisker (Apr 2014)

He quickly added that the company had "three or four separate plans to finance" its plans to put the three-wheeler into production.

The ATVM loan, he suggested, is at the top of that list. The company also has "one very wealthy backer," he added.

And it has "democratized the capitalization" of the company via the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act passed in 2012.

Elio Motors prototype at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015

Elio Motors prototype at New York Auto Show press conference, Apr 2015

Enlarge Photo

That act offers a mechanism for accredited investors to purchase securities or other equity in startup companies.

Such investments were previously restricted to accredited investors who met certain levels of income or personal net worth.

Elio Motors has engaged Network One to reach out to brokers to market those investments, he said.

Indeed, last month it sent out a press release noting, "Interested and eligible investors can buy into Elio for as little as $15,000."

RELATED: Elio 3-Wheeler Is Small And Clever, But Do Its Financials Work Out? (Aug 2013)

To begin manufacturing in its 4-million-square-foot former General Motors plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, Elio needs roughly $230 million, Elio has said.

As of this past January, the company had raised only $65 million--which pushed the production starting date well into 2016 from the original target of late this year.

While local authorities provided Elio with substantial incentives for the jobs it's expected to create, the state of Louisiana declined to invest.

GM UAW workers on the Hummer assembly line in Shreveport

GM UAW workers on the Hummer assembly line in Shreveport

Enlarge Photo

Questions at the New York Auto Show press conference then turned from matters of financing to the specifications and technologies of the car itself.

The Elio is to have a pair of seats in tandem, which reduces not only its weight but also its frontal area--both contributing to its fuel efficiency.

The prototype vehicle weighs 1228 pounds, Elio said.


 
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