It Looks Like a Morgan, Handles Like a Morgan, But It's An Elio
|   Monday, August 18, 2014
Nearly 50 years have passed since the last real Morgan (as in Morgan/Morgan) came rolling off the assembly line. The auto world just passed it off as another odd British car and moved on to talk about the Jaguar XK series that was the hot button at that moment.

For Morgan lovers, though, Jaguars really didn't matter very much and neither did any other British make (Austin 5/10, for example, or Rolls, or MG) as they only had eyes for the Morgan, one of the original motorcycle cars on the road.


The Morgan had its own cult and it may likely be the same for Paul Elio, who, if he is successful to any degree, may just be this decade's "Morgan." The reason for this is that, like the Morgan, Elio is planning to turn out a motorcycle-car that looks, to an astonishing degree, just like the old three-wheeled Morgan of decades ago.

Elio, an engineer, believes his Elio will be the next big thing in the auto market. To give him his due, he has gone further to make his dream come true as he has always wanted to build a vehicle with his name on it and it seems he will as he has prototypes now rolling on US roads and he plans to begin having them roll off his Shreveport, LA assembly line for the 2015 model year. He told the Associated Press Friday that he already has early pre-build orders for more than 27,500 of the three-wheelers.

He believes that the US is ready for a $6,500 vehicle that gets a clean 84 mpg on the highway and nearly 50 in the city that will actually do 100 mph, though it will be a very leisurely climb to the three-figure speed as the Elio is powered by a .9-liter (900 cc), three-cylinder engine.

He fully believes that by 2020 his line will be cranking out 250,000 Elios a year. This figure, by the way, is about the number of Mazdas that are sold every year.

If you were to look at old Morgan, you would see that the Elio looks like a more modern, swept version of the old cult car. It has the same outboard dual front wheel-single rear wheel set up. The rear wheel is the driving wheel.

And, while it is technically not a car as the US considers a three-wheeled vehicle a motorcycle and not a car, it actually has a closed body, low center of gravity and an interesting in-line driver-passenger seating arrangement that has enabled Elio to keep the roof at 54 inches, while the vehicle is about the same size as a Honda Fit.

Elio told the Associated Press that he believes the first sales will be to more affluent buyers, who have other vehicles such as an SUV and a standard four-door sedan and who are looking for relief from high gasoline prices by buying a tiny three-wheeler and using it as a commuter car or as a city vehicle.

The Elio is available in only two versions, an automatic and a manual.

It is quite natural that Elio – an engineer who built auto-related items and had a thriving business until the recession of 2006-08 hit, taking down his company – would be very high on his vehicle and his enthusiasm is quite natural. There are those industry observers who wonder if this may not be the new "Smart."

The "Smart" coupe, a microcar build by Daimler-Benz, was to have been the next big thing, observed Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelly Blue Book, one of the car-buying world's bibles. The problem was that after it made its grand announcement, the price points were set and the average price for the 8-foot-long Smart was set at $13,220, a rather disappointing development to many as was the fact that the tiny microcar only achieved about 38 mpg.

Brauer noted that if Elio is able to keep his pricing advantage, the Elio may just make it. "If it really get 84 mpg and doesn't drive terribly, it would would justify compromises" buyers would be making "in size and comfort" to buy one.

Elio is also planning a limited number of factory-owned stores – like the Tesla sales experiment where buyers go to the local mall to find and Tesla store – located in major markets across the country. Right now plans call for 60 stores at kickoff.

He told the AP the impetus for the size of the Elio were the high gas prices that people faced and have continued to face since the recession of 2008. Elio thinks the public is ready for a three-wheeled, two-seat vehicle that does have all the modern safety developments including airbags and anti-lock braking, among other items.

The big "if" in all of this pre-launch hype is whether the buying public is ready to embrace what is essentially a modifed motorcycle that is low and slow because of the price of gas or whether the Elio is just another unique cult car that, 50 years from now, will be supported by Elio clubs and concours where they are sold for ever-increasing prices due to their uniqueness. This is something only time will answer.
PHOTO GALLERY
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