Bricklin founded Subaru of America in 1968, in order to import and sell Subaru vehicles in the United States. He sold his interest in Subaru of America during the early 1970s, and founded a new company to manufacture his own car, the Bricklin SV-1. Built in New Brunswick, Canada, the Bricklin SV-1 was sold from 1974 to 1976, with less than 3000 vehicles sold. Bricklin re-entered the auto industry in 1982, importing and selling Fiat's X-19 and Spider convertibles under the brand name of Bertone. In 1986, he began importing the Yugo hatchback from Yugoslavia, selling more than 120,000 of the vehicles during the first three years of this venture. Selling his interest in the Yugo during the early 1990s, Bricklin has since made and marketed an electronic bicycle known as the EV Warrior. In 2004, Bricklin's company, Visionary Vehicles, made a deal to import and distribute vehicles made by the Chinese company Chery Automobile Co., but the deal later collapsed. Bricklin filed a number of lawsuits over the deal, winning a $2 million judgment against a former partner in the deal in 2013.
Bricklin began his business career by starting a chain of hardware stores in Orlando, Florida, called Handyman. He sold his interest in Handyman in 1960.
In the mid-1960s, after he sold his interest in the Handyman chain of hardware stores, Bricklin moved back to Philadelphia. When he was exploring establishing a network of gas stations that would rent scooters, he went to Japan to meet with the manufacturer of the Rabbit scooter, Fuji Heavy Industries, to arrange for the purchase and importation of their scooters. But Fuji was getting out of manufacturing and was concentrating on their car business.
At the meeting, Bricklin saw Fuji’s Subaru 360 mini-car, which got up to 60 miles to a gallon of gas and did not require federalizing in the United States because it was less than 1,000 pounds. Bricklin was able to secure an exclusive contract with Fuji Heavy Industries to import Subaru cars and trucks into the United States. He formed Subaru of America, and was described as ""one of the first auto industry mavericks to recognize that thrifty, inexpensive Japanese cars could be big in the United States."
The first Subarus to enter the US were:1968-1969: Subaru 360.
1970: Subaru FF-1 Star
Less than six months after the company formed, they became a public company and have been from 1968. Subaru of America became the only import car company that was publicly traded; it made small fortunes for its founder, Malcolm Bricklin and COO, Harvey Lamm.
Bricklin's next venture was his own car company, General Vehicle, manufacturing the Bricklin SV-1 two-seat gull-wing door sports car.
"SV" stands for safety vehicle, and Bricklin applied standards far ahead of anything the US government was imposing in the 1970s. The car exceeded US crash protection standards. It protected occupants with a tubular steel perimeter frame and roll cage and a chassis capable of withstanding a high velocity impact without deformation - and did not include a cigarette lighter or ashtray, as Bricklin viewed smoking while driving as unsafe)
The Bricklin was delivered to the customer without paint. A vacuum forming process bonded color-impregnated acrylic to each fiberglass body panel. Minor scratches would be buffed out. It had its unique "safety color" molded into the acrylic body.
The car garnered strong, mostly positive, coverage from car magazines and consumer media. In Car & Driver's comparison test, a '75 Bricklin with the Ford engine proved to be nearly a match for a '75 Corvette in every performance category—and the Bricklin's power-operated gullwing doors maxed out the "coefficient of cool" metric. Car and Driver concluded that despite some build quality and ergonomic deficiencies, and a price disadvantage, the Bricklin was "a tangible threat to the Corvette."
Although manufactured for the US market, the Bricklin SV1s were produced in Canada in the province of New Brunswick which was seeking ways to address their high unemployment, which was pushing 25% in the mid-’70s. New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield supported the Province’s involvement in the Bricklin venture as a way of establishing a manufacturing base that could provide steady, high paying jobs and attract interest in the Province through the publicity the car provided. Production at the plants began in mid 1974 and continued through late 1975, employing over 1200 people in the Saint John and Minto, New Brunswick plants. In September 1975, after building 2,854 cars, and General Vehicles having set up over 400 US automobile dealers with 40,000 back orders, the Province refused to provide any more financial assistance and forced the company into receivership.
After Fiat left the U.S. market, Bricklin created International Automobile Importers (IAI) in 1982 to import the Fiat X1/9 and Fiat 2000 roadster, renaming the latter the Pininfarina.
The company was profitable. But when Cadillac made a deal with Pininfarina, IAI was told that Cadillac didn't want a $14,000 Pininfarina being sold next to its $55,000 Pininfarina-manufactured Allanté, and gave IAI six months before they cancelled production of the cars.
Yugo, Global Motors Bricklin wanted to import a simple, low cost car to the U.S. market, was introduced to Zastava located in Kragujevac, Yugoslavia. Zastava had begun producing cars in 1953 under a license from Italian Fiat. In 1984, the entire Yugoslav car industry produced 236,000 cars, 58,000 of which were exported.
Bricklin, senior advisor Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Under-Secretary of State and Yugo board member Lawrence Eagleburger, and Global Motors executives met with Zastava. Bricklin agreed to import the Zastava Koral, the Yugo.
Bricklin and his engineers suggested some 600 changes in the Yugo for export, to keep the Yugo competitive with other cars in its class, a 1.1-liter 4-cylinder engine, in the U.S. Those changes included improvements in the anti-pollution system, comfort adjustments, safety devices and special carburetors for lead-free gasoline. In addition to the main Kragujevac complex, about 200 smaller Yugoslav factories produce parts for ZCZ cars.
Bricklin had his own people at the plant to monitor the effort, constantly stressing the need for high quality. A team of British quality experts sent a cadre to Kragujevac to study the factory and recommend improvements.
The first shipment of the Yugos sailed from the Yugoslav southern Adriatic port of Bar for Baltimore in July 1985.
Sales The Yugo was the fastest-selling car ever from Europe…163,000 in three years. It was the least expensive new car sold in the United States.
At first, five models of Yugo were sold in the United States for the 1987 model year: the basic entry-level $3,990 GV (for "Great Value"), the GVC with a glass sunroof, the nearly identical GVL and GVS with minor trim and upholstery upgrades, and the race-inspired GVX with the 1300 cc engine, five-speed manual transmission and standard equipment including a plush interior, ground-effects package, alloy wheels, rally lights, and a centre high mount stop lamp. The Cabrio convertible was introduced in 1988.
Sale of Company Malcolm Bricklin sold his interest in Yugo in 1988 for $20 million.
1992 United Nations Sanctions and US Bombing May 30, 1992 United Nations sanctions were imposed, severing Yugoslavia from world trade.
The effects of the United Nations sanctions on Yugoslavia forced Zastava to withdraw the car from every export market. After embargoes stifled production, the coup de grâce was NATO's 1999 bombing of the company's automotive division, instead of Zastava's arms-manufacturing division.
Yugo Critics and Defenders The Yugo was subjected to derision by critics who pointed to its use of old-generation Fiat technology and to alleged issues with build quality and reliability. The Yugo was voted Car Talk 's worst car of the millennium.
Defenders of the vehicle have counter-argued that the Yugo's reputation suffered due to an issue that also appeared with other initially inexpensive cars as the Chevrolet Chevette, Rambler, Crosley, and others — dealers were finding that too many owners were considering inexpensive cars as "disposable", and were failing to perform basic maintenance such as oil changes. Some Yugo owners have reported that regular oil changes and appropriate maintenance allow the cars to remain dependable and trouble-free.
Popular Mechanics surveyed 1,000 Yugo buyers and published the report in June 1987. In terms of quality and workmanship 78% said the workmanship was good to excellent, with 25% giving it an unqualified excellent. Only 5% said poor. 42.4% would buy a Yugo again (and 36% answered with "maybe").
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.
Bricklin thought electric vehicles were the wave of the future, a notion that appeared to be ahead of its time.
After trying to get electric cars off the ground for a time, Bricklin formed a partnership with Dr. Malcolm Currie. Currie is the former Chairman and CEO of Hughes Aircraft, GM Delco and former Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. In Bricklin’s and Currie’s view, the electric bike was a promising first step to winning people over to the idea of electric cars.
They formed Electric Bicycle Company and developed an infrastructure through car dealers to sell the bikes.
After three years in development, in 1996, the EV Warrior electric bicycle was created.
The rider could pedal unaided by the motors, or could activate them with a thumb switch on the handle bar. That smoothly, quietly and quickly takes the bike to 20 mph if the rider pedals, or to 15 mph with no pedaling before it needed a charge. Among the special features were high-tech turn signals and brake lights on the two rear-view mirrors.
It came in seven colors, resembling a mountain bike with a steel box behind the seat that straddles the rear wheel. Inside the box are two 24-volt electric motors powered by two rechargeable 12-volt lead-acid batteries. The suggested retail price was $1,400 to $1,900, depending on options, the "EV Warrior".
When the company folded, Electric Bicycle company was purchased by Lee Iacocca who renamed the company EV Globlal. That company no longer exists.
Currie founded Currie Cruisers and co-founded Real Spirit USA, to further develop the electric bicycles.
Beginning in 2002, Bricklin began his search for a manufacturing partner that could help him create another value brand in the US. He briefly considered the Yugo again, but the factories were in disrepair and he didn't think he could create a quality vehicle there.
Bricklin then embarked on a three-year journey around the world to find a manufacturing partner. He looked in the United Kingdom, India, Poland and after seeing their factory and meeting the executive staff, he decided to enter into an Importation Agreement with Chery Automobile Company, which is located in the Anhui Province of China and owned by the Provincial Anhui Government.
Chery Automobile Company
Visionary Vehicles [now named VCars, LLC] entered into a joint venture in December 2004 to import 5 different models of cars into North America. Bricklin staffed an Engineering office in Detroit to direct the changes required to meet and exceed safety the homologation requirements in the United States.
He established a dealer network in the United States and Canada.
Bricklin hired consultants, advisors and employees with extensive financial and automotive experience who were well respected in the industry.
These included: Allen and company; Atlantic Pacific Capital; Ambassador van den Heuvel, former US Ambassador to the United Nations; Maurice Strong, former United Nations undersecretary; Ron Harbour, of Harbour Consultants, international automobile factory evaluators; Marianne McInerney, former President of the International Automotive Dealers Association; and Per Arnberg, President of Fram Shipowning, LTD, an international shipping company.
Working with Atlantic Pacific Capital, he brought in George Soros, who put $200,000,000 in escrow to help bring Chery to the U.S.
He also retained New York Marketing and Public Relations firms that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in worldwide media exposure that put Chery on the international map.
After spending two years and $26 million in an effort to bring Chery’s manufacturing capabilities up to international standards and to create worldwide industry, dealer and consumer awareness of Chery, Visionary Vehicles discovered that Chery was using Visionary Vehicle’s engineering staff to work on a project that involved Chrysler Corporation [which ultimately failed to materialize].
Shortly thereafter, Chery entered into an agreement with Quantum LLC, a subsidiary company of the Israel Corporation, brought in to help fund Visionary Vehicle’s participation the joint venture with Chery. The agreement between Chery and Israel Corporation was done without Visionary Vehicle’s knowledge or approval, and excluded Visionary Vehicles.
Bricklin told Reuters, "We found out what was really going on behind our back at the end of '06 and we have been trying to get justice ever since. Dennis Gore, former Visionary Cars executive, used proprietary information to help Chery launch a joint venture with Quantum LLC.
Chery Automobile, Dennis Gore and Israel Corporation Law Suits
Visionary Vehicles filed suits to recoup losses and collect damages from the failed deal.
Chery Automobile Law Suit
The lawsuit against Chery Automobile was arbitrated in Hong Kong and Visionary Vehicles received an award with is subject to a confidentiality provision.
Dennis Gore Law Suit- $2 Million Verdict in Case of Corporate Espionage.
Federal Jury Finds Gore Committed Fraud and Other Offenses and Awards V-Cars 2 Million Dollars in Damages.
Having discovered Dennis Gore’s role in undermining the joint venture with Chery, Visionary Vehicles also sued Mr. Gore in Federal Court, in Detroit, Michigan.
An eight-person Federal jury took less than one day to return a verdict in favor of V Cars, LLC. The jury found that KCA Engineering LLC, controlled by Dennis Gore, committed fraud and other offenses and awarded $2 million in damages to Visionary Vehicles.
Israel Corporation Law Suits
A lawsuit against a Norwegian company working with Israel Corporation was settled.
A $30 million lawsuit suit against Israel Corporation is scheduled for trial in Israel
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.