Startups making small, economical vehicles come and go, but one company offering a high-efficiency vehicle has big plans, buying a former General Motors assembly plant.

Elio Motors is the company behind a three-wheeled car capable of 84 mpg highway, on nothing more complicated than gasoline.

Reuters reports the company has bought an old GM plant near Shreveport, Louisiana, and Elio expects to begin production of its fuel-sipping vehicle in mid-2014.

It will then begin "significant hiring", building up to a workforce of 1,500 by late 2015. Renovation of the old plant will begin later this year, should the deal go ahead this spring.

$6,800... and 5-star safety?

A small carmaker with big plans is a story we've heard before, and not one that often results in success.

Some of Elio's figures are intriguing, however.

First is the price, which Elio reports as only $6,800. For that, you get three airbags, power windows and air conditioning, two seats, and a central driving position.

The company also offers a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty. Even more surprisingly for such a small vehicle--and one registered as a motorcycle--Elio says that preliminary computer tests suggest a 5-star safety rating is possible.

We'll believe it when we see it, but the figures are certainly headline-grabbing.

Unusually, given its layout, the Elio is front-wheel drive, and also offers ABS. It isn't clear exactly what engine and transmission the car uses, but Elio Motors says 84 mpg is possible in highway driving, with a 60 mpg average.

The company expects to use about 1 million square feet of the 3-million square foot Shreveport plant for its manufacturing operations. Industrial developer Stuart Lichter is buying the plant in conjunction with Elio, and the rest of the space will be leased to other tenants.

Leave us your thoughts on the Elio three-wheeler below--vaporware, or genuinely affordable, economical transport?


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