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Tech Talk v63 – Paul Elio: The Man Behind Elio Motors

Elio Motors CEO Paul Elio is a Man on a Mission 

He wants to reinvent how Americans commute.

And, along the way he wants to create American manufacturing jobs, reduce American dependence on foreign oil and be more environmentally responsible than today’s existing automotive manufacturers.

An 8-Year Old’s Goal to Own a Car Company 

Ask most eight-year-old kids what they want to be when they grow up and you get a mixed bag of wild fantasies. Astronaut. Cowboy. Professional athlete. For Paul Elio, the big dream was to own his own car company. Truthfully, he probably had better odds to be an astronaut, a cowboy or a professional athlete.

Like many people, Elio stuffed those boyhood ambitions to the back of his mind and followed a conventional path to adulthood. He took a real job and slugged it out, day-by-day. Of course, the thought of owning his own car company was still bouncing around in the back of his mind. Already in his late 20s, Elio decided to go back to school and get his degree.

He didn’t go to just any school. He wanted to be an engineer and he wanted to learn from the best. He enrolled in General Motors Institute (now Kettering University), one of the top automotive engineering schools in the country.

At age 31, Elio graduated Magna Cum Laude, ready to change the world.

“I wanted to own a car company from the time I was 8-years old. Realistically, I had a better shot at becoming a professional athlete,” said Elio. “After all, there hasn’t been a successful automotive start-up in the United States since Walter P. Chrysler in 1928. This is an all-consuming passion for me and we are building a vehicle that will fill an important niche for low-cost, highly fuel-efficient transportation. The time is right for this vehicle and I look forward to the day these vehicles begin rolling off the assembly line. It will literally change the world.”

Taking the Entrepreneurial Dive



Elio landed his first engineering job with Johnson Controls, one of the most respected suppliers in the automotive industry. Despite some challenging and interesting assignments and the security of a Fortune 500 company, Elio could not escape one fundamental truth. He knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He wasn’t quite ready to launch his own car company yet, but he yearned to be his own boss. In 1996, he launched ESG Engineering in Phoenix.

Over time, ESG Engineering grew to a successful 40-person firm. But, the desire to run his own car company was still simmering underneath the surface. A conversation with current Elio Motors Board of Directors member Hari Iyer brought the dream to a full boil.

“We were on a business trip, hanging out at the hotel when we started talking about some of the changes needed in American transportation,” Elio said. “Why, if everyone drives solo to work, do they take an SUV or minivan with five or six empty seats every day?

Why not develop a commuter vehicle that was inexpensive to own and operate? The more we talked about it, the more excited we became. We knew it was something we had to do.”

In addition, Elio had grown tired of seeing bad news on television at night. Manufacturing was declining and wealth was pouring out of the country. Rather than continue to passively watch things decline, Elio decided then and there to do something about it. He went into work the next day and told Iyer it was time to get serious about their commuter vehicle.

Iyer, at the time one of the engineers at ESG, had been kicking around the idea of an aerodynamic three-wheeler, but really wasn’t sure how to get the vehicle off the ground. Elio knew one of the most important steps was to build a world-class team of automotive suppliers who already had technology, components and systems that could be designed into the three-wheeler. Elio knew that using too much futuristic, untested technology would make it nearly impossible to succeed. He set out to find supplier companies that could jump on board quickly.

Soon, Elio was “all in,” shutting down ESG Engineering to focus all his resources, talent and energy to making the Elio a reality. Elio Motors officially launched in 2008 where Paul and his team set out with a clear-cut mission statement to provide a fun-to-drive, super-economical personal transportation alternative, that’s affordable, safe, and environmentally friendly. Video: The Story of Elio Motors

The entire team at Elio Motors is committed to the American dream, creating American jobs, and bringing American automotive ingenuity to every vehicle we build. This is, and will remain 
our mission at Elio.

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