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Investors seeking refunds from Phoenix-based automaker

Posted: 6:00 AM, Jan 21, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-21 09:06:41-05
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Would you buy a vehicle promising 84 miles per gallon that costs less than $8,000?

It's what Elio Motors promised.

The Phoenix-based startup formed back in 2009 and they offered investors a chance to get in early.

Sixty-five-thousand people gave deposits, either non-refundable to get a better reservations spot, or refundable.

More than a decade later, after repeated missed target dates, a growing number of investors want their money back.

In 2016, CEO Paul Elio told me that investors who gave non-refundable deposits should have known the risks and they will not get their money back.

"These dollars aren't sitting around to give back to them because we're spending it creating a business," Elio told me then.

But he said refundable deposits would be returned upon request.

Recently, Michael Noel emailed saying he's been trying to get a $250 deposit refund for seven months. He says he lost his job and needed the money.

Our Let Joe Know/Better Business Bureau volunteer team went to work trying to get that money back.

Volunteer Emily took the case and worked with Elio Motors.

In about one month, Michael emailed again with some positive news.

He wrote, "to my amazement, I received the check. Thanks again for your help."

We asked Elio Motors -- with a decade of missed deadlines and nothing to show for their money, why not give it back to all investors who want it?

In an email, Elio did not answer that question. But they did say, "we did indeed get to the bottom of Michael's issue. We have cleaned up the process internally, the largest issues are with people moving or not entering correct address information which we face frequently. The issue is not widespread by any measurement and we work directly with customers to get them reconciled as quickly as possible while maintaining established business principles.

We process refundable reservation refunds for people that request them in our normal business flow and procedure. The process starts with an email from the customer and typically is completed in under 3/4 weeks. We alert them to the process and keep them in the loop until completed."