9 March 1939 |
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Florida|
|Known for||known for his self-named automobile company, successful 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 for being one of the few Americans who has successfully introduced foreign cars in bulk to the American public from firms such as Subaru, Fiat and Zastava.
He graduated from William R. Boone High School in Orlando, Florida, in 1956. 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 left the business having become a millionaire in the process.[dubious ] Through his various ventures in marketing low-cost cars in America, in building his own car, the Bricklin SV-1, in Canada, and in distributing the Chinese made Chery.
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. Bricklin made a deal with Subaru to introduce those cars to the United States, but after Consumer Reports called the Subaru 360 "The Most Unsafe Car in America," sales slowed to a stop. Bricklin and his partner, Harvey Lamm, then formed Subaru of America, Inc. to sell Subaru franchises.
When Bricklin sold his stake in Subaru, he received enough money to pursue his own American dream. He decided to design and manufacture his own vehicle, which he called Bricklin SV-1, a car with an exotic appearance (including 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 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, owing the government $23 million. It is believed that fewer than 1,500 Bricklin cars still exist. The Bricklin has a small but dedicated fanbase, and the Bricklin International Owners Club holds national meets biannually.
International Automobile Importers and Yugo
Bricklin went on to import Fiat X1/9s (rebadged as Bertones) and Fiat Spiders (rebadged as Pininfarinas). In the 1980s, he formed Yugo America, Inc. with a 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. Bricklin sold his stake in Yugo in 1988 for $40 million. Yugo America filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in 1991.
Electric vehicles and fuel cells
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. Around the start of the 21st century, Bricklin became very involved with several progressive fuel cell technologies, but he never lost his desire to bring a low-cost, high-quality car to the United States.
The search for the global car
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.
Coming full circle
Today Bricklin and Visionary Vehicles are planning to use his experience with both fuel cell technology and his knowledge of manufacturing economics to create a line of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs).
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.
- "Orlando man's message: Buy made-in-U.S. products". Orlando Sentinel.
- Brown, Paul B. (2005-07-09). "A Cliffhanger in Hollywood". New York Times.
- "Welcome to the Bricklin International Owners Club Website!". Bricklin International Owners Club. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- "50 Worst Cars of All Time". Time Magazine. 2007-09-07. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
- A Short Course in International Marketing Blunders
- Pendleton, Jennifer (2000-01-25). "Electric Bike Maker Turning in the Right Direction". Los Angeles Times.
- Strumpf, Dan (2008-07-21). "Bricklin's Visionary Vehicles sues former partner Chery". USA Today. Associated Press.
- How Carmakers Are Responding to the Plug-In Hybrid Opportunity
- BusinessWeek Bricklin is Back with a Plug-in
- Malcolm Bricklin Subaru, Bricklin, Fiat, Yugo cars
- Man behind the Yugo to lead new import wave in 2007, a January 2005 cover story from the Detroit News
- Bricklin Chery call it quits, from The Car Connection
- Malcolm Bricklin on electric hybrid plans, Reuters interview from January 2007