It's difficult for Malcolm Bricklin to sit still, much less stop talking about his newest auto venture.
The 65-year-old founder of Visionary Vehicles LLC has a contract with Chery Automobile Co. Ltd. of China to become the first importer and distributor of a lineup of Chinese-built vehicles in the U.S. starting in January 2007.
He vows to sell 250,000 vehicles the first year through a network of 250 dealerships, 500,000 the second year, 750,000 the third, and 1 million annually in the fourth year. He says he expects to have 1-million orders in hand before the first car is ever sold here.
Bricklin founded Subaru of America Inc. in 1968 to import Japanese cars into the U.S., a venture that proved successful. But he is best remembered as the man who in the mid-1970s created the 2-seater Bricklin gull-wing sports car that failed after only about 2,600 were built.
Critics said the quality was so suspect drivers could see the pavement below with the door closed.
He then established Yugo America Inc. in 1985 to import a version of the Italian Fiat as a $3,995 new-car alternative to buying a used car.
That venture failed in 1992. The best thing that could be said of Yugo is that it took the onus off the Edsel as the name most associated with auto ventures gone sour.
Bricklin also sold battery-powered electric bikes, another operation that went bust.
“Some people think this venture (with Chery) may be impossible because of my failures,” Bricklin says in an interview. “Yugo was my big failure. But when the jokes stopped, I had sold 50,000 Yugos a year for three years without an automatic transmission; dealers were getting $3,000 over list; the car never was recalled even though the quality was really crappy — and I made millions before it failed.”