Elio vehicle displayed in Baton Rouge

A startup company that wants to build three-wheeled vehicles at the old General Motors plant in Shreveport was displaying a prototype low-cost, fuel-efficient automobile at the Louisiana State Capitol on Monday.

Onlookers, who ranged from tourists and Senate staffers to Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, took pictures of the silver three-wheeled vehicle from Elio Motors.

Despite the vehicle’s small size, it had a surprisingly roomy interior.

Paul Elio, the CEO of Phoenix-based Elio Motors, said the Baton Rouge exhibition of the car was part of a tour that gave the public its first chance to see the vehicle. The tour started Friday in Shreveport, and stops are planned for St. Louis; Kansas City, Mo.; Minneapolis; and Detroit.

The vehicle will sell for $6,800 and get an average of 84 miles per gallon of gas on the highway.

Elio Motors is supposed to begin production of the vehicles at the shuttered Shreveport GM plant by June 2014. Elio said the company is on track to make that date.

“It’s more of a process than an event,” he said.

Elio is set to get a number of standard performance-based incentives from the Louisiana Economic Development department. Those include the Competitive Projects Payroll Incentive.

The CPPI gives companies payroll rebates of 13 percent for each qualifying job during the first 10 years of operations.

The company also is seeking to get backing from local governments. When the project was first announced in January, plans were for the Caddo Industrial Development Board to sell $10 million in revenue bonds to cover the renovations to the plant. Elio wants Caddo Parish to purchase about $1 million in bonds, and will sell the other $9 million to investors. Taxes derived from the plant would go toward paying off the bonds.

But Woody Wilson, Caddo Parish administrator, said Monday that state law prohibited the parish from putting up any money for the project in the form of a bond. The parish is evaluating its options to see if there are any other ways it can provide financial support to the project, Wilson said. No dollar amounts have been discussed.

“We’re considering our options,” he said.

Elio said funding from local government “has always been part of the capital stack.”

“Everybody involved who saw the whole stack was comfortable with that,” he said.

Plans are to hire 1,500 workers by late 2015. Elio said the bulk of the first wave of hiring will happen in spring 2014, 60 to 90 days before production begins at the facility.