The HELLENIC VEHICLE INDUSTRY S.A ( ELBO S.A. ) (standing for Elliniki Viomihania Ohimaton, English translation: Hellenic Vehicle Industry), is a Greek vehicle manufacturer based in Thessaloniki. Although it certainly is neither the oldest, nor the most "Greek" in its original technology (it was founded in 1972 after an agreement with Steyr-Daimler-Puch of Austria), it is one that managed to survive the evolutions that basically wiped out the Greek motor industry in the 1980s and 1990s, as it was the only state-owned company in its field.
It started business as Steyr Hellas S.A. assembling and manufacturing trucks, motorbikes and farm tractors (Steyr and Puch models). Significant orders for trucks and buses by the Greek Army and state authorities soon gave momentum to the company (some say, at the expense of other manufacturers). The tractor division declined in the 1980s, as the company focused on military vehicles; in 1986 it changed its name to ELBO.
In the years that followed, ELBO became a major producer of military and civilian trucks for a variety of uses (all based on Steyr models), engines (Steyr types, many for export to the Austrian company itself), military jeeps (Mercedes-Benz G-Class under licence), customized vehicles and machinery, and buses, with significant exports. Production of buses usually involved body construction on imported chassis; only a few models actually included complete ELBO chassis design and construction, among them the Midas and Europe models of 1993, and a number of military bus types. ELBO-bodied buses exported to Singapore in 1996 were welcomed by that country’s press as the first low-floor buses in the wider region.
A number of ambitious plans for company development and new products were not realized, as the state character of the company linked it to effects from government changes and mismanagement. Although it pulled out of a 1988 agreement with Steyr for an Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle Development, ELBO rather surprised many in 1998, introducing a particularly advanced Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle of its own design and development, named Kentaurus. However, the vehicle to this date has not been ordered by the Greek military due to reduced budgets.
Another step towards original developments was its initiative for the creation of a light sports car, which was assigned to TWT (an engineering company created in Germany by Greek engineer Dimitris Vartziotis, with facilities in Germany and Greece). The prototype of the ELBO Aletis (meaning "tramp" in Greek), an attractive car designed by Pininfarina with Volkswagen engine, was introduced in the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung in Frankfurt in 2001, but was never produced.
In 2000, ELBO was partly privatised, when the Greek Mytilineos metal and engineering group acquired 43% and undertook the company management. The company is currently producing the Leopard 2 Hel MBT under licence of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW); the first of 140 to be produced (in cooperation with a number of Greek companies) were delivered in late 2006. The fate of this company in a new age of globalism and intense international competition, nonetheless, will be more dependent on its own creativity and resources.