After seven years living in the U.S. “in exile,” former Brilliance China chairman Yang Rong has recently made public his grand scheme of creating a new automobile group with a goal of annually making 3 million vehicles in the U.S. and another 3 million in China with a total investment of at least $20 billion.
His Hybrid Kinetic Automobile Co., Ltd. plans to set up three assembly plants in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, build a production based in China with a capacity of 3 million engines and 1 million cars a year and launch the first model in both the U.S. and China in 2012.
Yang explained to leading Chinese media that as the name of his company suggests, he will make hybrid cars which will be fuel efficient and environmental friendly. Calling it the “3rd-generation internal combustion engine technology,” Yang claims that his hybrid gasoline/natural gas engine is capable of driving for 300 kilometers on a single liter of fuel.
And the funding for his grand scheme would come from a U.S. Immigration Investor Pilot Program for the EB-5 or investor employment creation visa category. By attracting 10,000 immigration investors from around the world a year, Yang said he could raise $5-10 billion a year. He would also be counting on government support in building new energy engines and vehicles.
While industry analysts agree that Yang’s grandiose plans sound too good to be true, we must not forget that the former chairman of Brilliance China did create miracles in China. In little over 10 years under the leadership of Yang and his team, Brilliance Jinbei had become the country’s largest passenger van and light bus manufacturer and the first Chinese company listed in the New York Stock Exchange. Brilliance also launched the first independently designed passenger car, the Zhonghua, and initiated joint venture talks with BMW, Renault, MG Rover and Manganese Bronze.
Until he was forced out as chairman of Brilliance China and served a warrant for allegedly committing “economic crimes of embezzlement of state assets” in late 2002, Yang Rong was considered a financial wizard, an automobile legend and a hero who successfully launched China’s first independent passenger car. He was an honorary citizen of Shenyang, where Brilliance Jinbei is based, and a member of the Liaoning Provincial Political Consultative Conference. He was also named one of China’s Top 10 automotive figures for 2001 and listed by Forbes as China’s 3rd richest man.
Yang Rong’s grand scheme shows that he still deeply cherishes his dream in becoming a global automaker. There is no doubt Yang will face all kinds of hurdles as a new entrant into the automobile assembly business but it is too soon to judge the outcome. After all he had done it once.
The biggest hurdle for him would be if the 2002 warrant would one day become obsolete and if he could get government support for his planned China operations. In our news analysis titled “Yang Rong vs. the State” published on December 5, 2002 in CBU-Auto (Vol. 8, No. 38) we pointed out: “To a certain degree, it was the power of the state that helped make it possible for Yang Rong to build not only Brilliance China but also the Greater Brilliance group worth at least ¥20 billion. The government in China, according to the viewpoint of a local analyst, is like water: it can keep your boat afloat or topple it.”