- New-car market, with sales of about 17 million expected next year.
- Used-car market, which is three times larger than the new-car market.
- "Third-vehicle" market. Most middle- and upper-income households have at least one single-occupant vehicle, also known as an "and" vehicle.
- "Clunker" market, with 234 million older cars on the road -- and 95 million of them 11 years old or older.
Rex Moore: "I'm about to get into a true prototype. This is not a production model, but it's a prototype of Elio Motors' new car. It really looks nice, I've gotta tell you. Let me get in here... let's start this guy up... and we are going to take off."
Door slams "Oops."
And since this is a prototype, I felt like a test pilot at times. This car doesn't even have the real engine in it... that's for the next prototype.
Moore: "I know the motor will not be this loud in the actual production model."
...and have a much nicer ride. But the purpose of this vehicle is to give a sense of what it will be like to drive the car, and, uniquely... sit squarely in the middle of the road between the two front wheels.
Paul Elio, founder of Elio Motors: "I don't know if you noticed, but you don't know that you're missing a wheel. It handles and drives like any other vehicle you've ever been in. But secondly, there's something natural about being right in between the wheels instead of off-center. And it's just kind of fun. You're like in a little race car."
There's also the matter of what a passenger might experience in the backseat.
Moore: "And I can tell... I am comfortable. I'm six feet tall and I've got plenty of headroom here. I'm not sure how much room a passenger's going to have in the back. Heather is back there right now and I think she's doing well."
Heather Horton: "I've got about two inches in front of my knees. I'm only 5'2" though. On a good day."
This prototype also gives a great sense of how popular you'll be on the road.... as we caught plenty of attention on our short test drive.
Moore: "How's it going?"
Man in truck: "Is it legal?"
Moore: "Barely, it's a prototype."
So how is the Elio going to get 84 miles per gallon... and sell for only $6,800?
Elio: "Well, I wish I had an answer for that. So 84 miles per gallon I can explain really easily. At highway speeds, most of your fuel goes to moving air. We sit two occupants front to back, so we're half as wide and move half as much air to double the mileage.
Price point -- there's like eight or nine things that we do really well that add up to be a big number, but some of those are we abandoned the package system. So if you look around your vehicle, you spent thousands of dollars on things you neither need nor want. So we build our vehicle only two ways -- standard and automatic. That's it. They all come with air conditioning, power windows, power door lock, and stereo."
Beyond that, you're free to pick and choose only the features you'd like to add on, such as power leather seats and blind-spot-detecting mirrors. And expect third-party suppliers to step up with even more options.
I can't say for sure how well the Elio would sell, but as I mentioned, there is intense interest in the vehicle -- with many people stopping to ask about it.
Man: "That looks really cool."
Moore: "Yeah, it's an interesting concept. I'm thinking it would be a great commuting car. And with three wheels you can also classify it as a motorcycle, and get in the Express Lanes."
Man: "Express Lanes...."
Moore: "You know what I'm talking about!"
Man: "I drive, commute every day for two hours. And something like that, especially for people in this area?"
I for one will be anxiously awaiting a test drive of the final product.
Moore: "That is one interesting ride. I'm used to people always looking at me when I drive, but not for this reason."
Reporting from the road in Alexandria, Virginia, I'm Motley Fool analyst Rex Moore.