CHICAGO SHOW: Entrepreneur sees value as hook to snare buyers for Chinese cars
Malcolm Bricklin, the man who brought the notorious Yugo to America in the 1980s, will sell a line of Chinese-built cars beginning in 2007 with starting prices as low as $US6,900, the entrepreneur told the Detroit News.
The cars, which range from compact coupes to upscale sedans, will be sold through a network of 250 dealerships that will feature test tracks, customer lounges and a jumbo video screen that will double as a drive-in movie theatre, Bricklin reportedly said.
Each dealership, located far from rivals, will be 20,000 square feet. About 1,000 people already have inquired about buying a franchise, he told the newspaper.
"If I can get enough people looking at my car and driving my car at these prices, people are going to be buying," Bricklin told the Detroit News in an interview at the Chicago Auto Show.
Under an exclusive deal, the cars will be built by China's Chery Automobile Co. and distributed by Bricklin's new company, New York-based Visionary Vehicles LLC. Top-end models will sell for between $20,000 and $25,000, the paper noted.
The report said Bricklin expects to introduce one new model every two months for three years for a total of 20 new vehicles - he has set a sales target of 250,000 units in 2007, and sales of one million a year within four years.
Production for each model will be limited to 50,000 vehicles and product line will include vehicles with four, six-, and eight-cylinder engines, the Detroit News said.
Bricklin reportedly insists the Chery-built cars will be free of the quality problems that plagued the Yugo when it was introduced in the 1980s. The Yugo, Bricklin told the paper, was built in an old factory by untrained workers in a war-torn country.
"This is a company that has quality," Bricklin said of Chery, which sold slightly less than 90,000 vehicles last year. It is one of China's second-tier automakers, and the eighth-biggest in the country.
The Detroit News said the Chinese cars will, however, carry a warranty good for 100,000 miles or 10 years from purchase. The paper noted that Hyundai and other automakers have offered similar warranties in the US market to overcome customer concerns about quality.
But the paper said value is the hook - prototypes of the models have been designed by renowned Italian designer Bertone and the curvy, sleek vehicles are aimed at going head-to-head with every major automaker, from Subaru to BMW, at a fraction of the price.
Bricklin told the Detroti News that a Chery-made car aimed at BMW's 6-series would be priced at less than $20,000 and include a V8 turbocharged engine.
The first models to be in the US will be unveiled next year at motor shows in Detroit, Chicago and New York, the paper added.