DETROIT - Imports into the United States of cars manufactured by China's Chery Automobile will likely begin at the end of 2007, the founder and president of importer Visionary Vehicles said on Monday, moving back the target date for a second time.
Malcolm Bricklin, best known for bringing the low-cost Yugo car to America in the 1980s, initially set a target of January 2007 for the first sales of the vehicles, expected to list for around $20,000 but compete with top-line luxury brands such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes. He later moved back the date to the summer of 2007.
"Now the dealers are involved, and they're going to tell us the things they want in the cars. The time line will change only from the input of the people we say we want input from, which is the dealers," Bricklin told Reuters on the sidelines of the North American International Auto Show here.
"Now it's pretty much around the end of 2007," he said.
Visionary Vehicles aims to sell 250,000 Chery cars in the United States in the first year through 250 dealerships nationwide, raising sales to 1 million vehicles annually by around 2010.
Bricklin said he expects to have 100 dealers -- some with multiple showrooms -- signed up by the end of next month, and all 250 sites ready and financed by March, putting in place the sales network needed to introduce the cars, which the entrepreneur said will "redefine the price of luxury."
Executives at established auto makers say they aren't too concerned about the threat of competition from Chinese brands any time soon, citing quality and other factors.
Chery's domestic rival, Geely Automotive Holdings Ltd. , this week became the first Chinese automaker to exhibit at the motor show in Detroit -- one of the world's most closely watched -- with an intention to enter the North American market in 2008 or 2009.
Bricklin said he was willing and eager to help Geely succeed in the United States through his 50 years of experience in the auto industry.
"Anything we can do to help them do a good job is what we want because we don't want Chinese cars to come in and start a bad reputation," Bricklin said. ""Anything that somebody does that says 'Chinese is bad' could hurt us."