Elio Motors wants customers to put their money where their mouths are

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Elio Motors is now asking for binding commitments to buy one of its three-wheelers(Credit: Elio Motors)

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It's been over three years since Elio Motors' three-wheeled, two-passenger vehicle first crossed our radar with no firm production or delivery dates in sight just yet. To move things forward, the startup company is now asking its enthusiastic fans for binding commitments to purchase an Elio to help it secure government loans.

Currently, Elio Motors takes refundable and non-refundable reservations for its US$7,300, 84-mpg (2.8-L/100km) vehicle. All reservations require a deposit of between $100 and $1,000, with the non-refundable reservations getting priority places in line to eventually receive an Elio.

On Friday, the company announced that customers willing to make a binding commitment to purchase an Elio (or convert their current reservation to a binding commitment) will lock-in a lower price of just $7,000, a little closer to the $6,800 price the company had projected in previous years.

Elio is making this move as part of its application for financing from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program. The program published new guidelines in June that essentially raise the bar and require binding purchase commitments from startup applicants in order to demonstrate market acceptance (and the likely ability to repay the loan).

We give kudos to Elio Motors for its transparency, but a binding commitment to buy a vehicle that has been consistently delayed over the past few years seems like a big ask. Fortunately, $7,000 is much less of a commitment than if, say, Tesla was to require a binding agreement for its $35,000 Model 3.

Elio points out that the ATVM loan is not a make-or-break for the company or its car, but it would surely help reduce future production delays.

Even if the loan doesn't pan out, Elio still has a lot going for it. We saw its test vehicle earlier this year, and it also became the first equity-crowdfunded company under new laws in the U.S. that allow unaccredited investors to buy stock in startups. The company was able to quickly raise $17 million from 6,600 new investors.

Source: Elio Motors, Start Engine (PDF)

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