CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Elio Motors has passed over Cooper Tire and Rubber Company in favor of Continental Tire to produce tires for their 3-wheeled vehicle.
The partnership was announced Tuesday, November 3, that the "ProContact GX" tires will be manufactured for the Elio vehicle at the Continental Tire facility in Sumter, South Carolina.
"We're pleased to announce our supplier partnership with Continental Tire to provide tires for our Elio vehicles," Elio Motors CEO Paul Elio explained in a press release.
According to Elio, their goal is to maintain high U.S. content in its vehicles.
However, Elio Motors signed a letter of intent with Cooper Tire on November 11, 2013 to produce tires for the company. Cooper Tire has a manufacturing facility in Texarkana, Arkansas which is located about 70 miles from where the 3-wheeled vehicle is expected to be built in a portion of the former General Motors Assembly Plant in Shreveport.
In 2013, Elio said, "We are delighted to have Cooper as our tire supplier. This letter of intent signifies a step forward in American manufacturing and assembly." He went on to explain, "We are proud that the Cooper tires supplied for the Elio will be manufactured in a U.S. plant and our vehicle will be manufactured in Shreveport, creating American jobs."
"Continued innovation is critical in the automotive business, and Cooper is excited to be working with Elio to develop an innovative tire design to be manufactured in one of our U.S. plants," said North America Tire Division Chris Ostrander in 2013. "Cooper shares Elio's commitment to this vehicle promoting a sustainable environment. By supplying tires with Cooper's low rolling resistance technology, Cooper will make a significant contribution toward helping Elio achieve its goal of 84 miles per gallon," he said, two years ago.
However, the partnership announcement between Elio and Continental Tire reveals Cooper Tire is no longer working with Elio Motors.
Paul Elio explained to KSLA News 12, that Continental Tire better suits their needs.
"Cooper Tire has been an important part of our early prototype development and we wish them well. However, Continental Tire was in a better position to support our tire needs moving forward," said Paul Elio.
Elio Motors reservation holder and Texarkana Resident Mark Muenzmaier is disappointed Cooper Tire will no longer be manufacturing tires for the Elio vehicle.
"While I'm still excited about the recent approval for crowd-sourcing millions of dollars so Elio Motors can build prototypes in order to test vehicle safety, I am disappointed that they have decided to change tire supplier from Cooper to Continental of South Carolina," he said.
"We in the northern ArkLaTex were hoping to 'share the wealth' so to speak, with the production and income which would have been injected into Texarkana, Arkansas at our largest employer. Here's hoping that Shreveport will still reap the benefits of this endeavor sometime in the foreseeable future," he added.
Paul Elio's latest prediction for a production start at the Shreveport plant is the end of 2016. The only people employed at the plant currently are working on selling surplus equipment to pay off the company's debt.
At last check, the company still needs to raise $225 million to be able to start production in Shreveport. However, that amount does not include the $25 million potentially raised through equity crowd-funding.
1,500 jobs and millions of Caddo Parish tax dollars are at stake when it comes to the success or failure of Elio Motors. Caddo Commissioners voted in 2013 to pave the way for the company to set up shop in the parish by using $7.5 million in tax payer money to give to the Industrial Development Board to buy the former GM plant. The plant was then leased to the Industrial Realty Group, which would sublease part of the plant to Elio Motors.
KSLA News 12 reached out to representatives for both Continental Tire and Cooper Tire for comment.
Cooper Tire responded with: