NEW YORK — Visionary Vehicles LLC Chairman Malcolm Bricklin, here to address the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Assn., tells Ward's he is confident he will not be ousted from his leadership position in running Visionary's import program, scheduled to begin in late 2008.
Visionary currently is ramping up to be the U.S. distributor of Chery vehicles in North America.
Although Bricklin declines to comment directly on other investors, a Visionary spokeswoman says Jonathan Soros, son of hedge-fund financier George Soros, recently invested $200 million in China's Chery Automobile Co. Ltd.
Meanwhile, Bricklin says he is postponing the launch of Chery vehicles here until late 2008 as '09 models.
That's because the two vehicles originally chosen to go on sale in the U.S. would not earn a 5-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Safety Admin.
“Postponing our project for one year gives Chery more time to get their quality up,” Bricklin says.
He also says he is expanding Visionary's product portfolio from six to 12 models, with prices ranging from $15,000 for an entry-level model to $45,000 for a luxury vehicle.
The flagship model will be built by Chery at the instigation of the Chinese government because it desires to move the country's top politicos away from favoring German-built luxury sedans.
Bricklin also reveals he has modified his launch plan so that more expensive Chery models will go on sale in the U.S. first.
Chery is growing at a phenomenal rate in China, he says. “They plan to sell 400,000 units this year (and) will hit 800,000 units next year.”
In his speech here, Bricklin urges dealers to apply for Visionary franchises, saying existing domestic brand dealers are imploding because manufacturers treat them as necessary evils.
He promises dealers they will receive a territory, not a location. The agreement would preclude Visionary from setting up new dealerships in the same territory, even if the original dealership were under performing.
“In that territory, I can't do a damn thing,” he says.
Instead, the remaining 249 dealers in the network would offer such a dealer a buyout. “I'm going to trust my dealers and make them my partners, not my enemies,” Bricklin promises.
He also says Visionary's portfolio will be rolled out with the agreement of his dealer-partners. They will be kept informed of vehicle development from preliminary sketch to finished product.