just-auto.com

USA: First six dealers line up to sell Chinese cars

By just-auto.com editorial team | 16 March 2005

Malcolm Bricklin has lined up the first six dealers to sell Chinese cars in America from 2007, according to Reuters.

"We talked to our first six (dealers) last week, and our first six said 'yes,'" Bricklin reportedly said during a speech to the Society of Automotive Analysts in Southfield, outside Detroit.

According to the report, the dealers have agreed to put $US2 million into a holding account to invest in Bricklin's company, Visionary Vehicles LLC, and in a Chery factory in China that will build the cars for the US market.

Reuters said the unnamed dealers will travel to China to visit Chery facilities next month, then finalise plans to join Bricklin's company.

Within the next 30 days, Visionary expects to have a total of 25 dealers, with 250 dealers on board within 120 days, Pierre Gagnon, the former head of Mitsubishi Motors North America who now heads Visionary's dealer development, told Reuters.

The news agency noted that analysts have said that Chery will have difficulty accelerating its output, while also meeting US government safety and environmental standards, consumer demands for quality and desire for original designs while Bricklin has said he believes the cars will be able to compete with Lexus and other top-quality brands.

Rather than try to compete against the billions that major automakers spend on advertising and marketing, Bricklin reportedly said dealerships will sell the vehicles themselves, by luring customers with showrooms that have all the excitement of a motor show.

The dealerships will offer valet parking, free child care, a test track to drive the vehicles, free car wash, and indoor and outdoor video screens to learn more about the Chery vehicles, Bricklin told Reuters, adding: "We want to make it a destination location. We're going to have an auto show, not a dealership."

Gagnon told the news agency Visionary will spend $200 million to $250 million on advertising to launch the new brand in the United States and the brand name of vehicles sold in the US will be decided later.

Bricklin reportedly conceded that his previous ventures, including Yugo and his own Bricklin sports car, were hurt by poor quality but said the Chery-made vehicles will place among the top three in quality, as measured by a benchmark JD Power and Associates study, when launched in 2007.

"We are going after Lexus quality," he told Reuters.