You asked, he answered. A Q&A with Paul Elio
The Times interviewed Elio Motors CEO and Founder Paul Elio via telephone Thursday.
The entrepreneur is supposed to manufacture the 3-wheel vehicle at Elio Motors, an automotive start up, in Shreveport. The company is slated to move into the old General Motors Assembly Plant.
It came with the promise of 1,500 jobs. But a lack of money has kept the production from starting at the plant and some question whether it will happen at all. Elio wouldn’t say how much cash the company has on hand.
Through its crowd source funding initiative, Elio Motors has received more $24 million in pledges from investors. Elio admits that money isn’t a sure thing, but he defends his childhood dream.
“This is a not a pipe dream. We’ve had 42,000 people who’ve said ‘Yes. I want an Elio and I’m willing to back that up with some long term commitment. This is becoming reality,” Elio said.
He said the world’s biggest suppliers are engaged in the project. Elio Motors currently is building its 5th generation prototype which will be the first in a series of prototypes used for testing and validation purposes. A supplier summit is planned Aug. 13-14 in Detroit.
Elio discussed many topics with The Times. He talked about his childhood dream of designing a car, the crowd source funding his company is using to raise money and whether technology will be integrated into the three-wheel Elio’s design. He also addressed potentially sharing the old General Motors Assembly Plant with another company. The prototype will have the Elio engine, Elio said.
The Times asked readers to submit questions they had for Elio. Here are a few plus a couple of others The Times asked.
Q:Will there be infotainment options such as Apple Play or Bluetooth capabilities?
One thing that we’re doing differently than the traditional automakers is we’re not going to integrate any electronic in the vehicle. There will be a way to connect your smart phone, tablet device or whatever flavor you like then you’ll be able to access your iRadio, Pandora or your iPod. The recycle time of electronic is so much faster than the life of a vehicle.
Q: What is the earliest date an Elio will roll off the assembly line?
We’re going to roll (out) the final time line in the next weeks. We always said it would be predicated on the funding picture getting clear. It’s gotten clearer. We’re going to have that final summit in August and start finalizing the final time line.
Q: I’m looking at Elio as my first daily driver but haven’t ever had a credit card. Will I be able to get one with little to no credit history?
We will partner with a finance company and try to make it as easy as possible to try to purchase an Elio.
A line drawing of Elio Motors 5th generation prototype (Photo: Photo courtesy of Elio Motors)
Q: How will reservations be handled when it’s time for production to start?
There’s a prescribed order of delivery of vehicles based on the reservation. We have two programs — refundable and nonrefundable. And we have four levels: $100, $250, $500 and $1,000. The $1,000 nonrefundable reservations get their vehicle first, then the $500 then the $250 then the $100. Then $1,000 refundable reservation folks get theirs. Then the $500, $250, $100. Then we start on with the people who haven’t made reservations.
Q: Will there be a cutoff point for reservations once production starts?
We’ll only take 250,000 reservations. We won’t take more than a year’s worth of reservations.
Q: Are you concerned about losing the lease on the GM plant given that new tenants such as Gulf Coast Spinning are moving into the plant?
No. This was the plan all along — one of the reasons why IRG owns the real estate instead of Elio. Elio owns all the equipment inside the building but the building and the land is owned by IRG. IRG’s claim to fame is buying abandoned industrial real estate and then filling it with companies. They have a site in California — an Air Force base. The day they bought it I think five people went to work there everyday and and now 15,000 people work there every day. That’s their claim to fame. This (building is) 4 million square feet, we need a million and a half. IRE will rent out the space around us. We got the first dibs so we got the space we needed.
Q. Do you have a plan B for what will happen if another company took over the entire plant?
I don’t know exactly how to respond to that. I don’t think there’s any other user for that plant that could produce the jobs that we’re going to produce. I don’t think there’s been any other real player that could come in and do what we’re going to do. Yes, the time line has slipped but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen.
Q: Would you be willing to release your financials?
No. But take a look at the progress. We started our own engine that is significant progress. We’re kicking off this prototype to start getting built then we’ll kick off the 25 we’ve been talking about. There’s been real meaningful progress. We’ve made all sorts of business relationship and all sorts of supplier relationship. If you’ve been following this overtime you’ll see there’s been a lot of significant progress. We’re not done yet but there’s been a lot of significant progress.