Over his 40 years of experience in designing, manufacturing, importing and marketing automobiles, Malcolm Bricklin built and introduced the gull wing Bricklin sports car, imported Yugos from the former Yugoslavia into the U.S., and was the first to import Subarus into the U.S. - as founder and chief executive of Subaru of America.
Bricklin's new lineup of automobiles will be manufactured by Chery Automobile Company in Wuhu, China. He has hired two famous Italian design firms, Pininfarina SpA and the Bertone Group to design the line, which will include a flashy hardtop convertible, a mid-sized sedan, a luxury coupe, an SUV, and a crossover - all targeted to be priced 30% below existing comparable vehicles. All of the models will come with a 100,000 mile warranty. The cars, which are being developed especially for the U.S. market, will have engines built by AVL List GmbH of Austria, and luxury interiors designed in Japan.
A state-owned enterprise, Chery Motors is one of China's top automakers. Founded in 1997, the company employs over 8,000 workers at it’s large, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. Its R & D center has over 800 engineers, many who previously worked for Daimler Chrysler, Ford, Honda and other multinational automobile manufacturers. The company claims to provide leading edge engineering, design, product development and manufacturing capabilities.
Zhang Lin, a former DaimlerChrysler AG executive, who now heads Chery's international operations, was hesitant to commit to a definite delivery date for the first cars. The time table, he indicated, will depend on the company’s ability to meet engineering and quality requirements.
The cars will also have to meet tough regulatory standards before they can be imported into the U.S.
Founded in 1997, Chery has up til now become successful in the Chinese automotive field by producing small, inexpensive cars.
In 2005, the automaker, although unknown in the U.S., sold nearly 190,000 cars - almost double their 2004 sales. In 2005, Chery also exported 18,000 cars - mostly to the Middle East. The company says its goal is to sell more than 300,000 vehicles overseas annually, starting in 2008.
Bricklin has put together a joint-venture deal with Chery in which Visionary Vehicles will own a 40% stake in Chery operations. Visionary Vehicles will be Chery's exclusive North American distributor.
To put the deal together with Chery, Bricklin
agreed to raise $200 million to invest in Chery and to assemble a network
of U.S. dealers. He has now signed up nearly 40 dealers, each who have invested
at least $2 million in exchange for sales rights and stakes in Visionary Vehicles,
LLC. Bricklin said he expects to sign up 200 more dealers within the next
Although there is some industry skepticism as to how easy it will be to gain buyer acceptance and build confidence in a new brand from an unknown Chinese manufacturer, Malcom Bricklin is confident that he will be able to lure American buyers away from mid-priced brands, such as Toyota’s Camry and GM's Buick LaCrosse with his new line of classy cars which will be competitively priced in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.
Bricklin says he wants the cars he imports to have the luxury feel of makes such as Volkswagen AG's Audi and BMW, but sell at a price below that of the Toyota Camry and comparable models.