Seven years ago, Yang Rong was facing arrest for alleged economic crimes and fled to the United States from his Chinese homeland. Once a highly successful auto entrepreneur, Yang is credited with founding the first Chinese company to be listed on Wall Street.
His latest venture is Los Angeles based Hybrid Kinetic Motors, which will offer hybrid automobile models that use gasoline, natural gas and electricity. Production of the cars is planned be begin in 2013.
Yang’s hybrid car venture will cost billions and is considered risky in the current economic climate, especially considering his heavy-hitting competition, Toyota, Ford and Honda. Toyota and Honda are years ahead of Hybrid Kinetic, having already invested years of planning and engineering as well as millions of dollars in hybrid technology.
Yang’s plans include a production plant in Alabama, which will roll out up to one million vehicles per year by 2018. To fund his operations, Yang plans to gather nearly $7.9 billion from private investors.
Edmunds’ GreenCarAdvisor.com senior editor John O’Dell feels the venture lacks promise. “Hybrid Kinetic…is talking about setting up a full-fledged, full-line auto company at the bottom of the second-worst recession in U.S. economic history.”
However, where some analysts see pitfalls, Yang sees opportunity. An associate of Yang’s, Vincent Wang, recently said, “What we are proposing is indeed very huge and very unconventional, but we view this as the best opportunity to get into the U.S. Industry.”
China still may still want to prosecute Yang for his alleged economic crimes, which have not been specified. Going by the name Benjamin Yeung now, Yang maintains that jealous government officials forced him out of his company, Brilliance China Automotive Ltd.
Brilliance became China’s largest minibus maker under Yang’s leadership and became listed on the New York Stock Exchange with government backing in 1992. By 2001, Yang was ranked by Forbes as China’s #3 richest tycoon, worth an estimated $840 million.
After a dispute between Yang and his government backers regarding Brilliance China’s ownership status, the Liaoning province government took over the company and issued a warrant for his arrest but never filed any charges. Yang fled the country and now lives in Los Angeles with his family.
Yang hopes to return to China someday, cleared of accusations. His lawyers state that the Chinese government maintains its position and accuses him of committing economic crimes.
In order to raise the billions needed for Hybrid Kinetic, Yang plans to approach wealthy Chinese mainlanders. There is a pilot visa program under which foreign investors who invest large amounts may be able to secure permanent residency in the U.S. The program requires that a minimum of $500,000 be invested in areas of the U.S. with high unemployment or rural areas like southern Alabama, where the production plant will be built.
Hybrid Kinetic reports a very favorable response from investors and has 2,000 interested parties lined up to help Yang begin the project.