Texas explains why the Polaris Slingshot missed the mark



The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has clarified its decision to keep the three-wheel Polaris Slingshot off the state’s roads.

According to the DMV, a three-wheel vehicle can be classified as a motorcycle in Texas under either of two definitions laid out in the state’s transportation code:

  • Section 541.201(9) allows for three-wheel vehicles with saddle-style seating, other than tractors, to be titled as motorcycles.
  • Section 521.001(6-a) requires that they have an enclosed compartment and feature a steering wheel, seats, seat belts, a windshield and windshield wipers that are in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards, plus a structure that passes a roof-crush test.

A DMV spokesman tells that the open-top Slingshot does not qualify under the latter code due to its lack of a roof and also because Polaris did not provide documentation to certify the other safety features. Since it uses a pair of car-like, side-by-side seats instead of a saddle, it can’t be classified under section 541.201(9), either.

Polaris says it was initially told Texas was one of them, but it was recently notified that that is no longer the case. A statement from the company suggests only that the “saddle” definition was the reason. It does not mention any attempt to meet the standards defined in section 521.001(6-a). Polaris is now working with regulators “to develop an appropriate vehicle classification for Slingshot and operator licensing classification for its drivers, as soon as possible.”

The rules governing this type of vehicle vary state to state, and Polaris would not confirm to in which ones the $19,999 Slingshot can currently be titled and registered, but says it has secured approvals in a vast majority of them covering 95 percent of the population.

Startup automaker Elio Motors, which is scheduled to begin selling a fully enclosed three-wheel vehicle with side windows and a door nationwide next year, says it has confirmed with Texas that it is in full compliance with section 521.001(6-a) and that its vehicles will be able to be titled and registered as motorcycles under that provision. Neither Campagna Motors, which has offered both closed and open-top three-wheelers through Texas dealers, nor the Morgan Motor Company, which sells an open-top vehicle called the 3 Wheeler through several dealers in the United States, has responded to requests for comment from regarding the status of their vehicles in Texas.