Malcolm Bricklin says the auto industry is in the middle of a perfect storm.
Fuel prices are at unprecedented levels, and environmental issues are always pressing.
So Bricklin, he of Bricklin SV-1 sports car fame and now CEO of Visionary Vehicles (www.vvcars.com), has called to action the Detroit automakers. He thinks together they can help move the electric vehicle industry ahead — and produce cars and trucks that achieve 100 mpg (4 L/160km). He’d like to see the automakers dedicate 20 per cent of their manufacturing capacity to electric vehicle production by 2012, and increase that to 80 per cent by 2020.
“Our economy, consumers, and the auto industry are being held hostage by $4 gas,” says Bricklin in an interview from his New York office. “It’s killing everybody, including airlines. Consumers with large vehicles can’t trade or sell an SUV, and it’s a ripple effect all the way down the line.”
Bricklin adds that people are driving less, and agrees that that’s not a bad thing.
He continues: “But from desperation, should come inspiration. Our industry needs a collaborative approach that allows new entrants, like Visionary Vehicles, to work with established OEMs to open idled factories, share new technologies, grow U.S. automotive jobs and deliver 100 mpg vehicles to consumers.”
Bricklin started Visionary Vehicles to design and engineer ‘green’ vehicles. And he’s convinced that electric cars, either plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) or pure electric vehicles (EVs) are the answer. He’s aware that there exist a number of companies and engineers creating their own PHEVs and EVs. Where Bricklin thinks the entire electric vehicle industry would benefit is in the use of common components.
Bricklin believes buying components such as batteries and motors and controllers in large quantities and sharing the parts with other electric vehicle makers will help bring down the end cost to the manufacturer. And, the savings would be passed on to the consumer. For his first Visionary Vehicle, Bricklin plans on introducing for the model year 2011 a luxury sedan that will achieve 100 mpg and retail for close to $40,000.
“I believe that by working together we can move America quickly into greater independence from foreign oil, while preserving U.S. automotive jobs and revitalizing the industry,” Bricklin says. “The U.S. auto industry can and should take an economic and environmental leadership position.”
He’s talking about using North American auto factories that have been mothballed to help build not only his own EVs, but those of other designers as well.
“There are over 40 closed factories in the U.S., and that’s a lot of United Auto Workers out of jobs,” Bricklin says. “In desperate times people are willing to listen to inspiration,” he says of his plan to literally regenerate the auto industry.
“All of the Detroit makers know how to make good cars, they’re just not the right kind of cars,” Bricklin says. “They’ve got a big investment in engines and transmissions that are wrong for today’s market.
‘Toyota proved with the Prius that people wanted cars with increased (fuel economy).”
According to the website www.40mpg.org, consumers are interested in taking action on fuel efficiency — and that there is a serious need for economical transportation.
Bricklin believes new electric vehicles should all share the same components. And that’s a mind shift.
“For the first time, a consumer isn’t going to care what’s under the hood — as long as it gets 100 mpg,” he says. Wouldn’t that make for a bland auto world?
Not so, Bricklin maintains. It would be up to the automaker how many electric motors went in their car, allowing for more or less horsepower. And, each car would definitely have its own style, with a distinct body and interior unique to the maker.
All of the vehicles produced would be retailed through a dealer network that consists of 250 stores, plus 25 in Canada.
The network would be EV specific, and would not only sell his luxury car, but also sell vehicles from other makers to help fill every segment. Bricklin is not, for example, planning on building his own plug-in electric SUV or sports car.
“Our strategy is simple: incorporate new technologies and components purchased at high volume discounts that will enable us to deliver 100 mpg at a price point consumers can afford,” Bricklin says. “And I believe if we don’t work together (automakers) are going to get decimated singly. It’s a perfect storm out there.”
First published in the Calgary Herald Driving.ca section, July 11, 2008.
There is a Canadian connection to this story. Bricklin will be sourcing his batteries from Electrovoya, an Ontario-based company. Read a news release here.