Production start pushed back for Elio in N. La. _lowres

Photo provided by ELIO MOTORS -- Three-wheel vehicle maker Elio Motors said production in Shreveport could be delayed later in 2015.

The start date for production of a new three-wheeled vehicle at a plant in Shreveport has been pushed back.

Production at Elio Motors had been slated to start by March 2015. Now, it is expected to begin in September 2015. Founder Paul Elio says the reason is a funding delay last year.

Stuart Lichter, an industrial developer leasing the plant, was set to invest $7.5 million in Elio Motors — in conjunction with the purchase of the facility for the same amount by Caddo’s Industrial Development Board. The proposal received a green light from the Caddo Commission in August. But, it was delayed until December.

Elio said he could not start the current round until Lichter’s money was in hand. He said if funding falls into place “unbelievably quickly” there could be no delay. However, if it takes the time he initially allotted, production will be delayed until the second quarter or the third quarter next year if that funding process takes longer.

Elio said he’s raised $55 million in private funding to date, and needs roughly $200 million to get his operation started.

Elio also is set to get a number of standard performance-based state incentives from the Louisiana economic development department, including 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.

Elio Motors has said its three-wheel, $6,800 vehicle gets 84 mpg on the highway and 49 mpg in the city, and has an anticipated five-star safety rating. It is federally classified as an enclosed motorcycle.

Elio and his team have been marketing the vehicle through a 33-city nationwide tour.

“We have a tremendous amount of momentum and it’s going very well for us,” Elio said.

Lichter said he’s confident Elio Motors will start production next year. “The demand generated for the vehicle is extraordinary.”

Most Caddo commissioners have agreed. However, commissioner Stephanie Lynch has long been the skeptic, saying vehicle production will not occur because Elio Motors is “severely under-capitalized.”

Lynch cast the only dissenting vote on the deal to purchase the plant in August, and immediately sued the parish on the legality of the transaction. A portion of her suit challenging the purchase was dismissed in September.