The vehicle is car-like, fully enclosed with power windows, airbags and air conditioning. But because it has three wheels, it's considered a motorcycle under federal vehicle safety standards, according to Elio's website.
"Do not call them cars, because they're not," O'Dell said.
Elio seeks to compete in a tight market where many green car startups have had struggles.
Lichter, president of the Los Angeles-based Industrial Realty Group, said he's putting up financing to help launch the vehicle line because he supports the concept of a fuel-efficient, gas-powered vehicle that is produced in America and that can be bought for under $7,000.
"It's a pretty spectacular concept," he said. "I just think the economic case is so compelling for a class of people, because this car will not be for everybody, obviously. To me, it creates a new model."
The low price could give Elio an advantage, said Andrea James, an applied technologies analyst with investment firm Dougherty and Co.
Both she and O'Dell said it was hard to tell who is the target market for the not-quite-a-motorcycle, not-quite a car vehicle. James said Elio might be able to find a sustainable niche without producing at the extremely high volumes of traditional automakers.
A similar, previous announcement of a start-up automaker for northeast Louisiana fell through a few years ago.
The much-hyped V-Vehicle Co., later known as Next Autoworks Co., proposed converting a former headlight plant in Monroe into an auto assembly facility that would build a fuel-efficient vehicle and eventually employ 1,400 workers.
But the plans hinged on hundreds of millions of dollars in federal loans that were never approved by the U.S. Department of Energy, and the project was scrapped.
Bill Callen, a spokesman for RACER Trust, said no federal money is involved in the Elio Motors project.
AP reporter Jeff Amy contributed to this report from Jackson, Miss.
Elio Motors: www.eliomotors.com