For certain green car enthusiasts, the Eclectic's arrival will likely be followed by two questions: "How can I get one, and how much will I pay for it?"
The chances of owning an original Eclectic, while not nil, are still quite slim. The initial batch of 200 has already sold out. However, Venturi said that response was so great that it decided to put a more consumer-friendly version of the Eclectic into production. This more compact Eclectic appears closer to what a conventional car looks like, though the family resemblance to the original Eclectic concept remains apparent. Think of the Smart fortwo ultra-compact vehicle, but with three seats and solar panels on the roof.
The price of this newer version of the Eclectic is slated to start at around 15,000 euros, or roughly $19,350 dollars. Venturi says production will begin in October 2009, in a new assembly plant near the French town of Sablé-sur-Sarthe. Venturi projected an initial run of 3,000 Eclectics a year; however, that number could change, considering the softening in Europe's automotive market caused by the global economic downturn.
It's anyone's guess how customers will respond if oil prices and the global economy don't pick up soon, but Venturi says it plans to target several existing markets:
- Private individuals
- Teens with driving licenses
- Resorts, industrial parks and private communities
- Professionals who need utility vehicles
- Corporate fleets
- Car-sharing fleets
Excitement for the Eclectic has run quite high. In 2007, Time magazine named the Eclectic one of the year's best inventions, a list that also included the omnipresent iPhone [source: Time]. Designed for use in urban areas, where range and top speed are not of great concern, the Eclectic could help bring clean, personal transportation to populous countries such as China and India.
So, is this car economically viable? We know that automakers' failure to meet consumer demand for fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly cars put many car manufacturers in the worst financial straits they've seen in decades. Could the Eclectic finally usher in a new era of renewable energy-powered automobiles? It's impossible to predict the future with pinpoint accuracy, but, as French writer Victor Hugo once said, "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come."