Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Malcolm Bricklin and Chery, The Movie

I stumbled upon this fascinating documentary today, and dropped what I was doing to watch the entire film in the middle of the day. The Entrepreneur documents the efforts of Malcolm Bricklin to introduce cars made by Chery of China into the United States. Bricklin previously had success with introducing Subaru to the US, and later, initial success by introducing the Yugo (which later turned out to be a fiasco).

The film was made by Bricklin's son, Johnathan, who was apparently given uncensored access, not only to Bricklin's board meetings, but also to negotiations with senior Chery management in China.

What I found most fascinating is the way Bricklin basically browbeats his Chinese hosts into signing an agreement with him. This goes against everything that China "experts" tell us about negotiating with the Chinese -- that typical Western emotional reactions have no effect on Chinese negotiators.

I don't think I am giving anything away by revealing the fact that Bricklin's venture was ultimately unsuccessful. If it had been, we would see Cherys on US roads today. However, I must admit surprise at how it all ended. My original assumption had been that the failure lay completely at Bricklin's feet. Indeed, the entire documentary, except for the last five or so minutes, gives one the impression that this excitable, hot-tempered entrepreneur could not possibly succeed in holding up his end of the contract.

So why did it all fall apart? Well, I'll leave that for you to judge -- that is, if you have about an hour and a half to watch a fascinating story.

You can find the entire documentary online at Hulu.com. Once you've watched it, feel free to return here and post your thoughts.

How does Bricklin get away with breaking all the "rules" of negotiating in China?

Did he ever really have an agreement with Chery?

Whose fault was it that this venture never got off the ground?