Bricklin starts media push for Chinese cars

NEW YORK: Auto industry maverick Malcolm Bricklin is preparing a major media push to support his new company, Visionary Vehicles, as he attempts to begin importing Chinese cars into the US.

NEW YORK: Auto industry maverick Malcolm Bricklin is preparing a major media push to support his new company, Visionary Vehicles, as he attempts to begin importing Chinese cars into the US.

Bricklin, who brought both Subaru and Yugo into the US market, now wants to begin importing cars made by Chery Automotive, which is owned by the local government in the city of Wuhu, west of Shanghai.

The account was handed to HWH Public Relations/New Media late last year. The agency has put three senior people and five junior people on the account so far, and is now hiring more staff to service it.

PR spending leading up to the Chery's US introduction in January 2007 will reach into the millions, said Wendi Tush, MD for consulting services at HWH.

"Our first line of communications really has to deal with why Malcolm is the right guy to do this," said Tush.

A second key message point will be the role China is playing in the world economy and the number of jobs Chery will create through its US dealer network, she said. Bricklin hopes to have 250 dealers signed up by the 2007 start date for sales.

HWH will also stress how Chery dealers will differ from traditional auto dealers. "This is going to be a different way to sell cars, a different type of dealer in the way they approach the sales process," said Tush.

Bricklin is promising the Chery will be priced 30% below comparable cars in the US.

Nonetheless, Bricklin seems to have a skeptical media to contend with. The auto press is already focusing on the quality problems that doomed the Yugo - imported from communist Yugoslavia - as it weighs Bricklin's latest chances of success.

But PR efforts for Chery will not shy from his Yugo experience, insisting instead that they have quipped Bricklin to import Chery models successfully. "He's learned a lot of lessons on how to do this right," Tush said. "He has experience dealing with a communist country."

Chery is being sued in China by a unit of General Motors for allegedly copying a GM design for one of its cars. Tush said her team will make it clear that the disputed model will not be imported into the US.

HWH has worked in technology and electronics PR, representing companies like Samsung and Casio.

The firm was referred to Visionary by another vendor.

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