While Elio Motors is looking to find investors to raise up to $100 million, the startup has hired a pair of former Trump campaign officials as lobbyists for its cause, according to a new report from The Daily Beast. The reason? The federal government still doesn’t consider Elio’s three-wheeled autocycle an “automobile,” which could really screw up the company’s business plan.
The new lobbying firm is headed by Mike Rubino and Jason Osborne—described by The Daily Beast as two high-level Trump campaign operatives—and it registered Elio as its first client last month. Elio’s trying to get the definition of “automobile” expanded so it can take advantage of federal incentives to keep its production dreams alive.
If the pair’s firm, Turnberry, doesn’t succeed, Elio’s future looks grim, as Jalopnik has previously reported.
Here’s more from the Daily Beast:
Elio is hoping to extract government goodies through programs generally opposed by the president and national Republicans. Chief among them are potential revenue streams through the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which set average mileage requirements for U.S. automobiles. The program allows manufacturers to amass credits for their high-mileage vehicles, which they can then use to offset their lower-mileage models—or sell to other manufacturers who might not otherwise meet the higher standards.
Elio’s fleet consists entirely of high-mileage vehicles. The company says their fleet gets 84 miles per gallon, which leaves it with no need for the credits. There’s just one problem: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which administers CAFE standards, doesn’t consider the three-wheeled, two-seat Elio an “automobile” under the standards’ definition.
Beyond that, Elio’s still hoping to secure a $185 million loan from the U.S. government’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, which hasn’t doled out any funds in years. Elio has said it received preliminary approval from the Department of Energy, which administers the program, back in 2015, but it has been stuck in limbo ever since. The Daily Beast spells out the troubles in fine detail here, if you’re looking to catch up on what Elio’s been up to in recent weeks.
It doesn’t help Elio’s cause that Trump’s proposed federal budget also calls for eliminating the ATVM program. To date, though, no final decision has been made on the program.