Steve Saleen Goes in a Different Direction
Steve Saleen resigned from the company that bears his name, Saleen Inc, last month, and people wondered what he was going to do next. After all, he founded the company in 1984 and even though he no longer owns it, the company under his direction turned out more than 12,000 go-fast vehicles like the Saleen S7, several specialty Mustang models, and also painted and assembled the recent Ford GT supercar for Ford.
According to various press reports, Mr. Saleen has signed on as CEO of ZX North America (ZXNA), the American subsidiary of Chamco Auto. Chamco Auto is the exclusive North American distributor of Hebei Zhongxing Automobile Company, a large vehicle producer in China that has plans to sell a Chinese-made pickup and SUV in the U.S. and Canada in 2008. The $13,500 USD pickup is called the Grand Tiger and the $16,000 SUV is the Landmark. Now, that is something decidedly different than what Saleen has done in the past, and with a very different kind of vehicle.
Saleen, 56, will base the ZXNA operation in Irvine, CA, where sales, operations and engineering will reside. The company plans to have their assembly facility in Mexico by 2009. Until then, the vehicles will be shipped complete from China. Saleen says 30 dealers in the U.S. have been signed already at $300,000 a franchise, and they expect to reach their goal of 150 dealers within 12 months time.
Okay, so here is the more familiar part: In a somewhat cryptic part of the statement from Chamco, the over-arching agreement also calls for Saleen to develop”a new company that will produce a new line of American performance vehicles manufactured in the U.S. for 2008”. No more information about the performance car company-to-be is available.
So, an interesting dichotomy – Saleen is going to be the point man in the U.S. for a Chinese company and its cheap, entry-level trucks, and, he’s going to have a new company that builds performance vehicles in the bargain. Seems a little funny, but I suppose its mostly because when you think “Saleen,” you think of something that goes very fast, not something slow, Chinese and inexpensive. But now his name will mean both of those things.