Malcolm Bricklin

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Malcolm Bricklin
Malcolm at the Peninsula.jpg
Born (1939-03-09) March 9, 1939 (age 76)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Florida
Known for known for his self-named automobile company, importer of foreign cars

Malcolm Bricklin (born March 9, 1939) is an American automobile entrepreneur. He is best known for his self-named automobile company and importing Subaru and then Yugo cars to the United States.

Handyman America[edit]

He graduated from William R. Boone High School in Orlando, Florida, in 1956.[1] In 1958, Bricklin dropped out of the University of Florida and built his father's Orlando, Florida building supply business into a franchised chain of Handyman stores.

Bricklin sold franchises in his Handyman America hardware store for $15,000. He claimed the chain would be backed by corporate advertising, a computer-controlled inventory and a central warehouse. Regional partnerships were sold at $250,000. But Handyman America didn't have a central warehouse, and at its height there were only 16 stores–not the claimed 147.[2] By 1965 franchisees began to sue; Bricklin exited, claiming he made a million dollars.[3]


In 1965, Bricklin started selling franchises for motor scooters that included the Fuji Rabbit made by Fuji Heavy Industries, who also produced the tiny Subaru 360 automobile. Realizing he could import the 993 pound two cylinder Subaru 360 without federal safety certification because of its light weight,[4] Bricklin made a deal with Subaru to introduce those cars to the United States. In 1968 Bricklin and his partner, Harvey Lamm, formed Subaru of America, Inc. to sell Subaru franchises[5]–but after Consumer Reports in April 1969[6] called the Subaru 360 "The Most Unsafe Car in America," sales slowed to a stop.

Malcolm Bricklin sold his holdings in Subaru of America, Inc. back to Fuji Heavy Industries in 1971.[7][8]


Bricklin's next venture was his own car company. The first vehicle called the Bricklin SV-1 was a two seat car with an exotic appearance including its signature 100 pound gullwing doors. "SV" stood for safety vehicle, and Bricklin applied standards far ahead of anything the United States government was imposing in the 1970s. The SV-1 was manufactured in New Brunswick, Canada beginning in 1974, an area not known for auto manufacturing–the location was chosen for the government's generous subsidies. The first year an American Motors 360 cubic inch V-8 engine was used then a Ford 351 cubic inch V-8 in 1975. Sales did not meet expectations, and only 2,854 cars were built before the company went into receivership, ultimately costing the government of New Brunswick almost $25 million.[9]

The Bricklin has a small but dedicated fanbase, and the Bricklin International Owners Club holds national meets biannually.[10]

International Automobile Importers (IAI), Yugo and Proton[edit]

Malcolm Bricklin went on to create International Automobile Importers (IAI) to import Fiat X1/9s (rebadged as Bertone X1/9s) and Fiat Spiders (rebadged as Pininfarina Spider Azzuras), after a chance meeting with Tony Ciminera in 1982. Tony Ciminera had been a dealer and customer relations manager at Fiat's North American operation prior to 1982.[11] By December 1983 Bricklin claimed IAI was doing extremely well and had already turned a profit. Three months later Ira Edelson, IAI's treasurer told Bricklin that "we are 120 days from going out of business unless we find another car to import".[12]

By May 1984 IAI was negotiating to bring the Yugo to the United States.[13] Bricklin used IAI funds to form Yugo America, Inc. in the summer of 1984 and started importing Yugos by August 1985[14] with a stated goal of bringing an extremely affordable car to U.S. drivers. The cars were manufactured in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and carried the unheard of price tag of $3990. With 160,000 vehicles sold during its launch phase, the Yugo quickly became the fastest selling European import in American automotive history. Despite this, the Yugo had a reputation for extremely low quality and was listed as one of the worst cars of all time.[15] Bricklin sold his stake in Yugo in 1988 for $40 million.[16] Yugo America filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in 1991.

In December 1986 Proton America, a new Bricklin Industries subsidiary, announced plans to sell 80,000 to 100,000 vehicles a year in the United States starting in February 1988.[17][18] Malcolm Bricklin pledged $10 million to modify the Proton Saga for US certification and to build a distribution network in the US. By 1988 in the middle of further negotiations with Malaysia's Proton, Bricklin sold the franchise business without making the pledged emissions and safety modifications, Proton failed to export any vehicles into the United States.[19][20]

Bricklin Motors dealerships[edit]

In the fall of 1988, fresh from selling his stake in Yugo for a reported $20 million profit,[21] Malcolm Bricklin's finances were in disarray. He reportedly owed the government $131,000 in back taxes for 1986; a bank wanted to seize his helicopter because he defaulted on payments and one of his two ranches was in foreclosure.[22]

But Malcolm announced a new project; his plan was to sell one to two billion dollars worth of high yield junk bonds and use the funds to buy 100 profitable dealerships. Those dealerships would have service departments open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and feature virtual reality test drive rooms. Once the dealership network was finished he would build a new car with gull-wing doors, this time made of steel and built in Asia.[23]

Electric vehicles, fuel cells and hybrid vehicles[edit]

In the 1990s, Bricklin turned his attention to the idea of producing environmentally friendly vehicles. He studied battery technology and went on to form an electric vehicle company, marketing an electric bicycle known as the EV Warrior. The company went bankrupt in 1997.[24]

In 1998 Bricklin started EVX, Inc., with the stated desire to demonstrate the first commercially viable fuel cell vehicle system in the United States.[25] Bricklin was also Chief Executive Officer of a company called Fuel Cell Companies, Inc., which also started in 1998.[26] Fuel Cell Companies, Inc. was acquired by TechSys Inc. of New Jersey for stock with the declared value of $1,021,800 in 2001.[27]

In September 2007 Malcolm Bricklin announced that Visionary Vehicles is developing a new range of vehicles that will go on sale in 2010. The plug-in hybrid sedan called the Bricklin EXV-LS will have a range of 850 miles and will be priced at $35,000.[28][29]

The search for the global car[edit]

Beginning in 2002, Bricklin began his search for a manufacturing partner that could help him create another value brand in the US. He thought briefly with the idea of Yugo again, but the factories were in disrepair and he didn't feel he could create a quality vehicle there. Bricklin embarked on a three-year journey around the world to find a manufacturing partner. He looked in the United Kingdom, India, Poland and finally decided to work on importing cars manufactured by China-based Chery Automobile instead. Bricklin's deal with Chery was signed at the end of 2004, and the inexpensive vehicles were announced to be available in the United States in 2007 from his newly named company, Visionary Vehicles LLC. Bricklin sued Chery in July 2008, claiming he lost $26 million in start up costs and $14 billion in expected profits. According to the lawsuit, the deal with Chery fell through in November 2006. Chery subsequently sought to partner with Chrysler and Quantum LLC.[30]

On July 15, 2013 a federal jury awarded Bricklin's V Cars LLC (known as Visionary Vehicles LLC before 2008) $2 million in damages from KCA Engineering LLC. The suit stems from Visionary Vehicles' failed venture to sell Chery vehicles in the United States.[31] As of July 2013 V Cars still has two other lawsuits regarding the importation of Chery vehicles pending, one against Israel Corp seeking $30 million and one against Chery Automobile Co.[32]

Documentary film[edit]

The documentary film entitled "The Entrepreneur" was filmed and directed by Bricklin's son, Jonathan Bricklin. The film documents his father's business meetings around the world as he tried to secure a contract with a manufacturing plan to offer a luxury sedan at a lower price than other automobiles offered in the United States.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Orlando man's message: Buy made-in-U.S. products". Orlando Sentinel. 
  2. ^ Smith, Steven Cole (February 27, 2010). "Story of Yugo leads to Orlando entrepreneur". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Vance, Bill (January 30, 2012). "Classic car showcase: Bricklin". The Chronicle Herald. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Donnelly, Jim. "Malcolm Bricklin: Feature Article from Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car". merican City Business Journals. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  5. ^ McCourt, Mark J. (February 2006). "A Small Start for Something Big - 1969 Subaru 360". American City Business Journals. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "The Subaru 360 (Not Acceptable)" (PDF). Consumer Reports: 220–2. April 1969. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  7. ^ McCourt, Mark J. (February 2006). "A Small Start for Something Big - 1969 Subaru 360". American City Business Journals. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Flint, Jerry (November 26, 1978). "Subaru dances to a different drummer, and briskly". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ Andrews, Jennifer. "Reading The Bricklin: Narrating the Place of Dreaming in an Era of Self-Sufficiency". Journal of New Brunswick Studies / Revue d’études sur le Nouveau-Brunswick. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "Welcome to the Bricklin International Owners Club Website!". Bricklin International Owners Club. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  11. ^ Vuic, Jason (March 2, 2010). THE YUGO The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History (First ed.). Hill and Wang. p. 39. ISBN 0809098911. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Vuic, Jason (March 2, 2010). THE YUGO The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History (First ed.). Hill and Wang. p. 43. ISBN 0809098911. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  13. ^ Vuic, Jason (March 2, 2010). THE YUGO The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History (First ed.). Hill and Wang. p. 46. ISBN 0809098911. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Vuic, Jason (March 2, 2010). THE YUGO The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History (First ed.). Hill and Wang. p. 48. ISBN 0809098911. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "50 Worst Cars of All Time". Time Magazine. 2007-09-07. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  16. ^ A Short Course in International Marketing Blunders
  17. ^ "MALAYSIAN PROTON SAGA". The Associated Press. Associated Press. Dec 8, 1986. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  18. ^ "COMPANY NEWS; Malaysian Car Deal". The New York Times Company. December 9, 1986. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  19. ^ Jomo, K.S. (2006). Japan and Malaysian Development: In the Shadow of the Rising Sun. Routledge. p. 276. ISBN 9781134820092. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  20. ^ Doner, Richard (1991). Driving a Bargain: Automobile Industrialization and Japanese Firms in Southeast Asia. niversity of California Press. p. 124. ISBN 9780520069381. 
  21. ^ Smith, Steven Cole (July 2009). "Malcolm Bricklin: What I'd do Differently". Car and Driver (Hearst Communications, Inc.). Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  22. ^ "Continuing Saga Financial Problems Dog Malcolm Bricklin". Orlando Sentinel. March 23, 1989. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  23. ^ Truett, Richard (October 20, 1988). "Bricklin's Next Shot He'll Buy 100 Dealers, Then Build Another Car". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  24. ^ Pendleton, Jennifer (2000-01-25). "Electric Bike Maker Turning in the Right Direction". Los Angeles Times. 
  25. ^ "PTC Group's Clean Air Alliance Takes Next Step: Zero Emission Millennium Taxi to Debut in New York Next Week". PTC Group, Inc. Jan 28, 1999. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  27. ^ "Form 8-K, Item 2, Fuel Cell". UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION. August 2, 2001. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  28. ^ Abuelsamid, Sam. "Malcolm Bricklin's Visionary Vehicles to enter Automotive X-Prize". AOL Inc. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  29. ^ How Carmakers Are Responding to the Plug-In Hybrid Opportunity
  30. ^ Strumpf, Dan (2008-07-21). "Bricklin's Visionary Vehicles sues former partner Chery". USA Today. Associated Press. 
  31. ^ Shaya, Isabella. "Bricklin's V Cars wins $2 million settlement in fraud suit against former employee". Crain Communications, Inc. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  32. ^ Dannon, Itzhak; Lichterman, Joseph (Oct 23, 2013). "V-Cars LLC Seeks $30 Million From Israel Corp For Alleged Bad Faith In Joint Venture Arrangement With Chery Automobile". Jewish Business News. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  33. ^

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