As Wheego Electric Car has been experiencing, starting up a car manufacturing business is a very tough thing to do. Wheego is wending its way through acceptable compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards Regulations (FMVSSR) for its two-seat, all-electric Wheego Whip LiFe car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had granted Wheego a temporary exemption to the rules to allow for sales of the car as minor problems are being addressed and safety standards met. Earlier this week, it was discovered Wheego has been granted a second exemption period to comply with FMVSSR, after the first waiver ran out on August 1. This new waiver allows the Whip LiFe to remain on the market until December 31, 2012.
The problem with the $32,995 electric car is that its Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system is not fitted to the car, although it is now meeting anti-lock braking system requirements. Wheego has to improve the airbags, too. Its simple airbags are considered compliant until February 11, 2013, when NHTSA would like to see advanced airbags put in place. Wheego is being allowed by NHTSA to build up to 1,000 Wheego Whip LiFe cars in its present condition.
Tesla Motors went through a similar process when rolling out the original Roadster electric sports car in limited-run production. Tesla was given temporary exemption under the same scheme, allowing it to sell the car without advanced two-stage airbags through December 31, 2011.
In the movie, "Revenge of the Electric Car," Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk was compared to Preston Tucker, who built a very cool car in the 1940s – the Tucker – and attempted to beat his major competitors in Detroit by making it as a startup automaker. Tucker went out of business after manufacturing only a small volume of the innovative Tucker models because he didn't have the cash flow to keep his company going.
Management at auto manufacturing companies will tell you that there are a few benchmarks that have to be passed for a new car to make it into someone's garage: funding is an obvious one, along with engineering and design. Then there's the regulations: passing crash tests and getting NHTSA to sign-off an extensive list of federal safety standards. Wheego Electric Car is climbing some very high walls right now and, at this point, getting NHTSA to sign off is the one that matters the most.