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Bricklin Signs Dealers, Feuds with GM


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Malcolm Bricklin continues to push ahead towards his goal of importing Chinese-made cars into theUnited States despite a growing legal conflict with General Motors.

GM has objected to the use of the Chery name in the U.S. because they claim it's too similar to Chevrolet, said Bricklin before a recent conference in Detroit where he was preparing to talk about his new import company. Chery is the name of the Chinese company that is supposed to build vehicles for export to the U.S. through a dealer network created by Bricklin.

Bricklin said only half in jest that in retaliation he and his Chinese partners are thinking of asking the courts in China to stop GM from using the Chevrolet name in China. GM and Chery are already tangled up in a court fight over the use of a vehicle design that GM claims Chery stole from GM Daewoo.

Signing up dealers


Meanwhile, Bricklin said he is make steady progress in filling out the plans for Visionary Vehicles, his New York-based company that is promising to bring Chinese made vehicles American consumers.

A total of 25 dealers have already signed on with Visionary to sell the cars from Chery. The progress has been considerable, considering that Visionary's prospectus for dealers wasn't completed until mid-June, which means that dealers have only been able to review the material for few weeks. "Before that there really wasn't any thing for them to see," Bricklin said.

In addition, the requirements for becoming one of Visionary's dealers are substantial, Bricklin noted.

To qualify for a franchise, dealers have to purchase $2 million in Visionary stock and find ten acres for the stand-alone building that will house the dealership, which Bricklin said will make buying a car as much fun as going to an auto show.

The vehicles will come from Chery, which has already brought in Italian designers to help prepare a full line of vehicles for the U.S. market. The objective is to sell the very best vehicles at prices 30 to 40 percent below those sold by established competitors such as Toyota or General Motors Corp.

Bricklin said that the first cars should be ready for the U.S. market in the middle of 2007. "I keep asking them for more," he said, "And they keep telling me, 'Well that's going to take a little more time,’" he added. Consequently, the date for actually bringing the new models into the U.S. has slipped by a few months, he said.

Bricklin also says he continues to be impressed by his Chinese partner. Chery, China's eighth-largest carmaker, has been very successful in recruiting talent from other carmakers, he noted. "The head of Toyota's manufacturing operations in China just joined Chery," he noted.

No pikers


Most of the dealers that that have committed to build Visionary dealerships already have substantial automotive holdings and operate anywhere from five to 20 different franchises, added Bricklin, who declined to identify any of the dealers that have signed up to sell the vehicles. "People will be surprised when they see the list," he added.

"There are another 200 dealers in the pipeline," added Bricklin, who noted that dealers are facing pressure from other manufacturers not to sign up for the Visionary franchise.

"It's nothing overt because that would create anti-trust problems for them. But it's there," said Bricklin, who is considered an outsider in the automotive business despite his past successes, which have included introducing Subaru to the United States during the 1960s and bringing the Yugo brand to the U.S. 20 years later.

Bricklin also is credited with such innovations as the extended warranty, which he used with Yugo.

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