Production for Elio 3-wheeler slides to 2018; is time running out?


Elio E1A test vehicle, June 2016

Elio E1A test vehicle, June 2016

Elio Motors continues to drag its feet regarding the start of production for its three-wheeled, two-seat, "84-mpg" vehicle, but it may now be running out of time.

The company previously said it had received 55,000 reservations for the car, representing potential sales of $300 million.

Last year, it raised $17 million through small-investor crowdfunding.

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But so far, Elio has only built a handful of prototype cars.

Now the company says it will push the start of series production back to 2018, according to a report by KTBS, a local news station covering Shreveport, Louisiana, where the assembly plant Elio bought from General Motors is located.

KTBS cited a statement in the comments of a post on Elio's Facebook page, and noted that the delay coincides with some dire financial data in a report Elio filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Elio E1A test vehicle under construction, June 2016

Elio E1A test vehicle under construction, June 2016

According to that document, Elio has generated zero net income since its inception in 2009, has paid zero dividends to its shareholders, and has only produced five prototype vehicles.

Elio unveiled the first of those cars in July of last year, claiming it was part of a series of 23 test and validation vehicles.

These "E-Series" vehicles were intended to be used for the development tests conducted by all carmakers, including crash tests and tests of assembly processes.

MORE: Golly, Elio Motors has built ... a car! One test car, in fact (Jul 2016)

They are destined to be crushed once those tests are completed—not sold to customers.

But as of September 30, 2016, Elio had a mere $101,317 in cash reserves, down from $6.87 million at the beginning of 2016, according to its report to the SEC.

The company said in the report it was using $25.9 million in non-refundable customer deposits to "fund operations."

Elio Motors 84 mpg 3-wheeler [Image: Elio Motors]

Elio Motors 84 mpg 3-wheeler [Image: Elio Motors]

Elio continues to pin its hopes on a $185 million loan from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing low-interest loan program.

First allocated in 2010, ATVM loans were offered to carmakers and suppliers to upgrade facilities and build cars with fuel efficiency at least 25 percent higher than those they replaced.

No company has received funding from the program since 2010, and its future under the new Trump administration is unclear.

If the DoE loan does not come through, Elio said it would "rely on funding through customer reservations and selling debt," adding that if financing could not be secured "we may have to curtail our business sharply or cease operations altogether."

Elio has also apparently secured cash in another, more controversial way.

The company only leases the former GM plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, but SEC documents reportedly show that it sold equipment from the facility from 2014 through 2016, banking $4.9 million in the process.

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

It also listed $1.1 million in equipment still for sale, claiming it will be sold "prior to the commencement of production."

Meanwhile, some customers who have put down deposits are tired of waiting after multiple delays in the start-of-production date.

At least one reservation holder is suing Elio to get a deposit back, and a petition has been filed to start a class-action lawsuit against the automaker.

Regarding the lawsuit, Paul Elio—president and founder of Elio Motors—told KTBS that the company offers options for both refundable and non-refundable deposits, and that "each is clear on the benefits and risk."

Per the company's Facebook page, the non-refundable "I'm All In" allows customers to "lock in" a base price of $7,300, and get a priority spot in line (as well as a t-shirt and bumper sticker).

Orders from customers who take the refundable "I Want In" option take their place in line behind those from the "I'm All In" group.

Elio also offers "I'm All In" reservation holders spots closer to the front of the line for $100, $250, or $500 additional payments.

[hat tip: John Briggs]

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