In April Elio Motors established a Pilot Operations Center for evaluating the E-Series version of its three-wheeled vehicle with the goal of rolling out pre-production Elios by the end of this year.
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“The E-Series vehicles are an important bridge from the prototype phase to the commercial production phase,” says Gino Raffin, vice president of manufacturing and product launch.
An initial build-out will be used to calibrate and test the anti-lock braking system supplied by Continental Automotive. As additional vehicles are completed they will be used for a variety of aerodynamic, safety and durability testing.
“Beginning the E-Series assembly is another important milestone in our journey toward production, as these test vehicles will allow our engineering and supplier teams to evaluate and validate our design,” says founder and CEO Paul Elio, who recently answered a series of questions posed by Aftermarket Business World:
Q: What are some of the elements of your global research process that netted the technological developments for this vehicle?
A: Because I owned my own engineering services firm, I had the opportunity to work with several automotive manufacturers and automotive suppliers and was able to observe and learn how the industry operates for years. Much of the best practices that I observed we have incorporated or improved upon for the Elio design and for our company’s operations.
Additionally, we have drawn upon the backgrounds and experiences of our key executives in creating a high-level knowledge base, including Hari Iyer, our chief operating officer, Steve Semansky, vice president of supply chain management, Jeff Johnston, vice president of engineering, Gino Raffin, vice president of manufacturing and product launch, and Jerome Vassallo, vice president of sales. They have brought some insightful ways that will allow us to do this better.
We’ve also been able to assemble a blue-chip roster of automotive suppliers. For example, we have two of the largest global suppliers – Bosch and Continental onboard. Their global expertise has been instrumental in our overall development.
Q: You’ve been focusing on suppliers in North America; how important is this aspect related to your company philosophy/mission compared to the global outreach for technological advances?
A: Manufacturing is too important to our country’s long-term global competitiveness to give it away. As a nation, we need to have a strong manufacturing core, where we are constantly inventing, improving and innovating. It’s why I went into engineering in the first place…to make things, and, to make things better. Elio Motors is dedicated to creating American jobs and working to make our manufacturing sector and our economy stronger.
However, manufacturing jobs in the United States have been disappearing for two decades. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 16.8 million people were employed in manufacturing in 1994. By 2014, that number had dipped below 12 million. Much of this decline has come in the auto industry. According to Center for Automotive Research (CAR), U.S. domestic auto manufacturing market share was 73.7 percent in 1993. But, according to the Wall Street Journal, that share dropped to 42.4 percent in 2013.
We are committed to purchasing our content in North America to help strengthen American manufacturing and create as many jobs here as possible. That’s why it is so important to build the Elio targeting utilization of 90-percent North American content. And, that’s why it’s so important to build the vehicle in Shreveport, La. Elio Motors will create an anticipated 1,500 direct jobs in Shreveport and another estimated 1,500 at its supplier partner companies. In addition, these manufacturing jobs could create another 18,000 jobs across the country.