"250,000 is a big number, in other words, and – if Elio hits that number – that would make the Elio trike the number 4 best-selling vehicle in the US using 2011 numbers. The Elio would out-sell the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ram pickup, etc., etc. And it would have to do it all with (get this) 120 dealers."
1. The $5-a-gallon gas crises of 2008 was over, and people really aren't interested in hyper-miler cars.
2. The savings in going from 40 mpg (such in a Prius) to 60 or even 80 mpg is minimal. The law of diminishing returns kicks in, and the savings get smaller and smaller as you go up the scale.
3. Making such a car in America would be prohibitively expensive, as it would be a niche market vehicle, and as such, economies of scale would not be present.
4. No matter how bad-ass a roll cage you put into the thing, it would be a deathtrap compared to even a basic car. Litigation would result, and you'd likely be sued out of existence.
5. The government could step in at any time and decide to classify any three-wheeled vehicle with an enclosed cabin as a "car" and thus pull the rug out from under you at any time. The savings in not having to certify it as a "car" would evaporate overnight.
6. So many others have failed at this before, such as the Corbin Sparrow. The Corbin is still in business, but they sell them for a staggering $30,000 a copy, which tells you what Elio needs to be thinking about, in terms of real production costs. The Carver three-wheeler suffered from the same cost problem.
7. The gas mileage would not be all that great, compared to some micro-cars already on the market, or to hybrids. Small size and a small engine would deliver good gas mileage, but not astounding mileage.
8. If this was such a great idea, why haven't people in other countries where gas prices are far higher considered it? Yes, they have tuk-tuks in Thailand and India. But even in those countries, four-wheeler micro-cars are replacing these.
Davis Motorcar Company
The Dymaxion (Bucky Fuller's three-wheeled dream!)
The Fuldamobile (so Teutonic!)
Go 3 Wheeler (a kit car, apparently under development, one seat)
The Messerschmidt - favorite of Uncle Fester and Terry Gilliam.
Daihatsu Bee - postwar Japan povertymobile.
Daihatsu Midget - more like a tuk-tuk
Mazda K360 - another autorickshaw
Reliant Robin - the UK's answer to the Trabant.