By now you may have heard of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s new car company, Yo Autos. The venture, whose sole funder is Prokhorov’s ONEXIM Group, first made headlines last year when it promised to deliver a gas-electric hybrid retailing for less than $13,000 by 2012. Though the Yo factory in Russia hasn’t yet been completed, the company has already shown off its first three models to the press, and claims to have taken more than 150,000 pre-orders to date.
At the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, Yo introduced a fourth vehicle into the mix that the carmaker says will act as design inspiration for future models. The “Yo-Concept” as it’s called—and you’ll soon see why the car will likely never be more than a concept—is an extended range plug-in hybrid. (Few details are available as to what might actually be going on underneath the hood.)
What really caught the eye of the automotive press is that the car features one of the most unique door configurations you’re likely to ever see. Rather than opening outward like most cars—or upward like the gull-wing doors of a DeLorean—the Yo-Concept’s doors slide up and back, protruding about a foot behind the bumper. It all looks very cool in the computer-rendered video the carmaker released to media, but to an unsuspecting pedestrian standing behind the vehicle when the process takes place, one can imagine it might be a bit painful as well.
Other futuristic features of the Yo-Concept include video cameras instead of side mirrors (which would help to reduce drag,) and a teardrop-shaped windshield that extends to the roof of the vehicle before finally terminating above the rear seats. While its unknown how many (if any) of these style points will ever make it to a production vehicle, the car displayed at Frankfurt did help generate further publicity for Yo.
At this point though, press attention isn’t the main obstacle facing the carmaker: it’s proving that the cars Yo has displayed and talked about extensively over the last year can actually be built at the promised price point—and that once built, they will actually work. The company has already backtracked on some of its big talk, now saying that its first vehicles won’t be gas-electric or come in under the $13,000 mark as promised, but will rather be fossil fuel-powered and start at $14,500. One can imagine that including the promised hybrid battery system will drive the price of the vehicles up considerably further.
Before test-driving the car in Russia earlier this year, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin jokingly asked one question that’s likely been on the minds of many since the Yo-Mobile was first announced last October. Turning to Prokhorov with a wry smile, Putin quipped “I hope it will not fall into pieces. Will it?”