Daily Ticker

A new U.S. automaker with a $6800, 84 MPG, 3-wheeled "car" on the way

The future of driving is looking bright, literally. In the video above, The Daily Ticker meets a new U.S. automaker, Elio Motors, with a bright orange prototype of its Elio automobile. It’s got one door, two seats, three wheels and stands to make driving more affordable for many Americans. Why? It’s being engineered to achieve 84 MPG on the highway at a cost of $6,800.  It’s also being made in the U.S.A.

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Elio’s founder and CEO, automotive engineer Paul Elio, tells us the original concept behind Elio Motors was to help Americans struggling with high prices at the pump. The automaker is marketing it as an “and” (i.e. in addition to your current vehicle) not “or” car, for things like driving to work.

They’re planning to build it at a former General Motors (GM) plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, which GM got rid of in its bankruptcy. Elio pledged to create 1,500 jobs when it purchased the plant.

Click here for an Elio slideshow

“If you’re going to build a sophisticated product like a vehicle, America is still the best place to do it, hands down ... we have the skilled labor force, we have the infrastructure,” Elio says, adding that he thinks the price tag of his car will demonstrate a product can be made in the U.S. at a low cost.

One secret to keeping costs down is by using parts already in use in other vehicles, says Elio vice president of sales Jerome Vassallo.

The Elio is technically a motorcycle, because it has fewer than four wheels. The automaker is engineering it for a 5-star crash test safety rating. Kathryn Henry, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will not test the Elio though, as it is not technically a car. (The company is lobbying for an exception). Elio’s safety features include a roll cage, three airbags that cover all the windows, and engineering built to absorb frontal, side and rear collision impact.

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Another hitch to the Elio: Drivers may need a motorcycle license to drive it in some states. One potential bright side is that it will require motorcycle insurance, which Vassallo says is less expensive, and you may be able to drive it in the carpool lane.

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Production of the Elio is scheduled to begin in March of 2015, but interested buyers can reserve their spot on the website. More than 18,000 people already have.

As for how the car drives, we tested it out – in the safety of an empty parking lot – and you can see how it performs in the video (remember – it’s a prototype, so no seatbelts and some features will be different).

As for those incredulous that the price will only end up being $6,800, when pressed, Vassallo says that is what they are aiming for and he is 80% to 90% confident it will be below $7,000.

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