The American (sort of) car company you’ve never heard of


Which car would you rather buy:

  1. A $27,000 made-in-America commuter that gets 60 miles per gallon, or
  2. A $14,000 car that’s identical, but made in China

That’s a question the founders of ECO Motor Company had to address as they discussed bringing their three-wheeled commuter car to production.

ECO Motor Company began as a summer project between CEO David Joner and his son. Eventually design engineers from around the world were brought in and the innovative EMC3 Commuter was born.

Rated at 54 horsepower from its 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine, the rag-top convertible is officially classified as a motorcycle. In truth, though, it’s a car and built to automobile safety standards that include front airbags, dynamic side impact beams, and reinforced A and B pillars. ECO Motor Company is having crash testing performed on the EMC3 by the same laboratory used by big automakers and the NHTSA.

A base price of $13,995 will get you a manual transmission, convertible top, power windows and locks, air-conditioning, an AM/FM/MP3 player, and those precious front airbags.

eco-emc3-interiorI believe the EMC3 represents the kind of innovative thinking required for the auto industry to succeed. It is very basic transportation with a smart design that uses a regular gas engine and should deliver phenomenal mileage numbers while not compromising safety.

Quality is a natural concern, though… as ECO Motor Company has elected to have their car built in China by Geely, China’s largest privately held automaker. Even so, I think they made the right choice, as the pricetag is affordable, and the warranty is the same as if the car had been built in America: a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Production on the EMC3 has already started, with the first deliveries expected by May of this year.

So what do you think: Are you more apt to buy a $27,000 car made in America or an identical car made in China costing about half that?



  1. I’ve have quite a bit of experience working with Chinese-made vehicles, both here in the States and in China, and I certainly wouldn’t buy the $14,000 version. (Which will actually be closer to $16,000 once you ship it here and pay the sales tax to buy it.)

    One of the most striking things I’ve had to deal with when working with Chinese automotive engineers is how many of them have never owned a car and indeed, don’t even know how to drive a car. Beyond that, you have a culture that seriously lacks the basic technology skills that we Americans take for granted. For the most part, they must be taught EVERYTHING. If I’m involved in an accident in one of these cars, I have no confidence that the air bags will work, that the welds will hold, that the chassis will fold as it should, and that the fuel system will remain intact. I know that anything they submit for crash testing will be virtually hand built and not represent a true production vehicle.

    On the other hand, I know the American-built vehicle will be properly assembled and hopefully will be made of parts that are also properly assembled, and will offer much more reliable protection in an accident. I think it will also be much more reliable, too. I’ll also feel a bit better that I’m not supporting a non-democratic government with one of the worst human rights records in the world, and supporting sweat shops populated with children and prisoner laborers as is seen in the Chinese supplier industry.

    And if our government isn’t as stupid as it looks and acts, I’ll also get a $5000 tax credit for buying a high-efficiency vehicle made in the USA. (A great way to have a tariff without actually having one.)

    I’ll ask a question because that seems to be the standard way the blog entries are ended. Do you think consumers should buy the service or product that YOU produce from a foreign competitor simply because it might be cheaper? And a follow up question: Do you think this country can survive if we base every buying decision solely on price?

  2. How was that $27,000 figure arrived at? Was it based on worker wages from years past?

    If so, I’d rather buy it from a U.S. company that can figure out that, during this economic crash, they’ll be able to find good workers at a price that can allow that $27,000 price tag to go way down.

    Go ahead and buy the parts from China – but at least put Americans to work here at home.

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