Auto import maverick back with bold plans
EAGLE COUNTY – Malcolm Bricklin has always tried to sell something different to people. The man who brought Americans the clown-car-cute Subaru 360, the bargain-basement Yugo and his own version of a safety-oriented sports car announced a new venture this week: Visionary Vehicles LLC, which intends to do the remarkable: Bring a five-model car line to American consumers by 2007, and sell those cars for about 30 percent less than competing models. The sales goal is 250,000 cars per year.The American company includes the investment banking firm of Allen & Co., as well as several experts in shipping, manufacturing and meeting this country’s safety and environmental regulations.On the Chinese side is the Chery Automobile Company, a firm that last year built fewer than 100,000 cars.”We did the Yugo from start to delivery in 14 months.” Bricklin said. The two-year time frame for Visionary Vehicles “Is pushing it, but doable.”Bricklin is based in New York these days, but has strong ties to the area.He spent time in Aspen, and owned a ranch near Meeker for several years. He spends time in the Vail area, and his son, Mark, is the circulation and marketing director for this newspaper.Another son, Jonathan, has lived and worked in Steamboat Springs and Vail, and shot a movie, “Minimum Wage,” in the area.These days, though, the 65-year-old Bricklin is working hard on the new venture with partners around the world.
The cars, which don’t yet have an American brand name, are being designed by Italian firms Bertone and Pininfarina, which have penned some of the world’s sexiest vehicles. An Austrian company, AVL, has been hired to design the engines.”These aren’t going to be just entry level cars we’re selling for 30 percent less,” Bricklin said. “We’re going to sell $30,000 cars for $21,000, and $20,000 cars for $14,000.”And, Bricklin said, the vehicles Chery will build are being designed for the American market, and will be loaded with things Americans want.”The Chinese have read all the books, and they’re following that blueprint,” Bricklin said.Visionary Vehicles’ initial plan is for just 250 dealers to start, and it’s hard to tell what kind of market resistance the new brand will encounter, even with a 10-year/100,000 mile warranty.But Rhonda Rawls thinks the plan has a chance to work.Rawls, general manager of Cowboy Corral Kia in Grand Junction, has had experience trying to convince people to try a brand they may not be familiar with.”It takes a while of people buying and trying them,” Rawls said. Bringing Americans Chinese cars will be a challenge, she said, but it’s doable.
“The guy’s probably going to a make a lot of money,” she said.For more information, go to vvcars.com.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 613, or email@example.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado