Elio Motors has a weird reputation. The company is a social experiment that has convinced people to give millions of dollars towards what amounts to a cool idea. As they pushed pack the release date again, Elio's reserved customers – essentially its investors at this point – are quickly running out of patience.
While Elio Motors has all the over-promised and under-delivered hallmarks of a fly-by-night snake oil salesman and the Dale, it also has the actual financial support of more than 40,000 actual people that definitely exist. At the start of the year, while Elio was proudly taking credit for some of their optimistic CES coverage, they casually sprinkled in that they would be in production by mid-2016, after a previous deadline of 3rd quarter 2015, one that they decided on after they missed their initial July 2014 deadline by a country mile.
What's the issue?
In my talk with CEO Paul Elio, he assured me that they had the mechanical technology in place to make the car a reality, and it looks like they have a working engine, although it hasn't gone through any sort of in-car testing and some of the parts look completely custom, like the intake and exhaust manifolds, which will either be replaced by cast/molded pieces, in which case it's a prototype engine and will require even more testing afterwards, or those parts will be have to be hand-made for consistency, which can slow the production process and add cost.
And that is the fundamental issue with the company: it boils down to money, or lack thereof. When I first wrote about Elio, I said that they needed about $200 million to go into production, a figure I seemingly misquoted to the tune of around $40 million. By some reports, the company needs $240 million to function, and if they don't find investors quickly, they could lose their spot in their Shreveport, Louisiana factory, which would almost certainly close the curtain on the company for good. Although the company did pass one of three requirements for receiving government loans for the money, no news has been released as to any update. Unless Elio Motors gets a huge injection of money within the next year, it may stagnate indefinitely.
So what have they done?
They've opened up a clothing line. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you can now buy overpriced brand-matching gear to a car that exists only in your imagination. Elio, via Comau, is also selling all of the manufacturing plant's unused machinery on eBay and Amazon and are doubling down on their efforts on getting regular people to fund this exercise in wish fulfillment, and have resorted to sponsoring posts on Facebook to drum up support for its advance payment reservation system.
Naturally, some people weren't keen on the idea and had had enough:
If its Facebook comments are any sort of measurement of confidence in the company, it seems Elio Motors has some substantial work to do to prove that they're not destined to join the likes of Aptera, Vector, and Half Life 3.
For those of you living in the real world and want a super-cheap, high-MPG, futuristic-looking car, check this out:
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.