Elio Motors is hoping to shake up the auto industry with Elio, its three-wheeled "car" that can achieve 84 mpg, thanks to its small footprint and simple design. It's not for everybody, but it could make city driving much easier. It's also making car ownership cheaper, as it costs as little as $7,000, although there are some catches involved.
Elio says it's "locking in" its prices for different levels of reservation holders. If you put down a non-refundable deposit, the price will be set at $7,300. If you make a "binding commitment," as Elio calls it, the price drops to $7,000.
To agree to that binding commitment, you have to sign a special form that says you will purchase the vehicle regardless of when it actually goes on sale. There's no special benefit for refundable depositors. You'll receive your car in a specific order, based on what type of deposit you've made and how much it is.
The reasoning for this convoluted pricing setup is simple: government loans. Elio's applying for the US Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. To be eligible for an ATVM loan, you have to have more than just a bunch of non-binding reservations. Thus, Elio can't get that sweet green unless it ramps up the number of reservation holders that agree to actually purchase the thing.
There's another catch, too. This deal is only good until Elio reaches a combined 65,000 reservations from all different tiers. The company is about 10,000 shy of that number right now, and the site does not mention what the price will rise to once this offer ends.
I reached out to Elio to see how much it'll cost for someone who places the absolute minimum, refundable deposit, but have not heard back yet. The site's purchasing process is on the complicated side. It's easy to see how much your deposit will be, but full prices are conspicuously absent.