A Man with an Alternative Energy Dream
By Brendan Moore
Bob Riley, Governor of Alabama, and Benjamin Yueng, CEO of Hybrid Kinetic Motors
The man who started Brilliance Motors in China and then subsequently fled the country for the United States when charged with financial misdeeds, now plans to start another car company in Alabama.
That man is Yang Rong. His plan is to offer a complete lineup of hybrid vehicles that run on natural gas, gasoline and electricity, with production to start by 2013. He says the plant may employ 5000 people and produce as many as one million vehicles per year. Furthermore, he says that he will raise $7.9 billion USD from private investors in order to get the necessary capital to fund the company, which he has already named Hybrid Kinetic Motors. The company is based in Los Angeles currently.
Yang Rong, who now prefers the name Benjamin Yeung, and is also now a US citizen, has an unusual strategy for getting the $7.9 billion in startup funds. He plans to solicit wealthy Chinese nationals in mainland China for a minimum $500,000 investment by dangling the promise of permanent US residency in front of them.
And how would this work, exactly?
It works this way:
The United States currently has a pilot visa program that rewards a minimum investment of $500,000 in a region with high unemployment or specific rural areas (such as southern Alabama, where Yueng wishes to build his plant) with a permanent residency visa.
A spokesman for Hybrid Kinetic Motors, Vincent Wang, stated that over 2000 investors in mainland China have already expressed interest in the offer.
“A lot of people in China want to move some of their money out of China,” Wang said.
However, the pilot program is just that – a pilot program that could end suddenly at the whim of the United States government. Yueng is doing his best to make sure that doesn’t happen, spending $120,000 last year in Washington in lobbying fees to make the program permanent. He also paid former president Bill Clinton an undisclosed amount to make a speech about very little in Hong Kong last year.
But there is a far more formidable obstacle to Yueng’s gamble, and that is the awful state of the auto industry now. It certainly doesn’t help that most auto industry analysts are saying that the industry won’t fully recover until years from now, which is just about when production would start at Hybrid Kinetic Motors. And that brand-new car company with zero brand recognition will be selling brand-new models with zero history behind them, and competing against all the established car companies that, by that time, will have plenty of proven reduced-emissions and/or zero-emissions vehicles on the market.
But Yueng is confident, if nothing else, and says his new company will have an advantage over the established companies in that the future will require new kinds of cars that will require new kinds of thinking, which is something Hybrid Kinetic Motors will do better than anyone else.
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Photo credit: Governor Riley’s press office