Robert Wright:

It might seat only two people and resemble some of history’s most eccentric automotive experiments, but a three-wheel car capable of 86 miles to the gallon will be bought by thousands of Americans, according to a former auto parts executive.

Paul Elio says more than 25,000 people so far have paid a deposit to get one of the vehicles, which resemble the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller three-wheeler of the 1950s and 1960s. The first are due to be delivered to customers next year.

The vehicle – called the Elio and priced at just $6,800 – is intended to appeal in part to drivers who want a second vehicle alongside their large, fuel-inefficient one.

“People need those big vehicles for a reason,” Mr Elio says of the cars with which he hopes the Elio will share garage space. “They know they don’t need them all the time, but there’s no cost-effective solution. We make it make sense to own an Elio in addition to the rest of your fleet.”

However, Mr Elio – a former manager at Johnson Controls, an auto industry supplier – faces scepticism from many in the auto industry.

Michelle Krebs, an analyst at, says any auto industry start-up is likely to struggle to secure enough capital. “This is a business that just gobbles up money,” she says.