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Pontiac, Mich. Mayor Leon Jukowski Talks Elio Motors, Wishes Shreveport a Smooth Ride [INTERVIEW]


The General Motors plant in northwest Louisiana was known for innovation. Now, the facility, which was closed last summer, begins a new era thanks to car maker Elio Motors, who purchased the old GM plant earlier this month.

But before Shreveport, Louisiana, Elio Motors had eyed Pontiac, Michigan as a potential partner.

leon jukowski
Photo: City of Pontiac, Michigan

Pontiac Mayor Leon Jukowski told KEEL news that the car company had scouted a facility in the city and even offered an investment incentive. However, several issues prevented the plan from bearing fruit.

“The problem we focused on that as an investment, it was beyond the scope of our knowledge,” said Jukowski. “For that reason, members of the [Pontiac] Pension Board were uncomfortable with it.”

Elio’s idea offered Pontiac what Jukowski called “a double whammy” of investment diversification and job creation for the city. But not everyone could agree.

“While I can’t speak for everyone on the pension board, there seemed to be reservations on whether the American public would warm up to a three-wheeled vehicle.”

Elio’s unique model reminded the mayor of the historic re-purposing of larger, more formidable World War II machines into peacetime vehicles.

“After the war, Germany made a three-wheeled vehicle in the Messerschmidt fighter airplane factory from leftover parts of those fighters,” explained Jukowski. “They’re beautiful little cars, like Elio’s design — neat little bug-eye city cars. As economies took off and people became more wealthy, they began wanting bigger cars with four wheels. Certainly after about 1950, there were fewer [of those three-wheeled Messerschmidts] to be seen.”

The market positioning plan for Elio’s third millennium application of the three-wheel design is a vehicle that allows drivers to have larger vehicles for longer road trips and serve as a cost-effective alternative to those four-wheeled autos, for shorter trips and averaging at least 65 miles per gallon.

Underscoring that vision, Elio says it’s equipping its vehicles with amenities such as power windows and doorlocks, air conditioning and both automatic and manual transmissions. Its airbags and other safety features are designed to receive a five-star safety rating.

As a car buff and self-proclaimed “motorcycle nut,” Jukowski believes Elio’s creation has something to offer.

“I think it’s a fascinating vehicle. I think my son would love one. I don’t know if my mother would get in one — [maybe] on a bet,” he laughs.

Though Pontiac decided not to be a character in Paul Elio’s new chapter of automotive inventiveness, Jukowski retains a positive outlook for northwest Louisiana auto manufacturing.

“Congratulations,” says Jukowski to Shreveport-Bossier. “Please tell Mr. Elio I wish him the best of luck and I look forward to seeing the product on the road.”

According to Elio Motors, its new facility in Shreveport should begin rolling out vehicles in mid-2014.

Listen to the full interview with Mayor Leon Jukowski below

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Check out the Elio in action

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