* Exiled Chinese tycoon Yang Rong to return to car business
* To announce late this month car production in U.S.
* To create thousands of jobs in Alabama
(Adds remarks from industry consultant)
By George Chen and David Bailey
HONG KONG/DETROIT, July 9 Yang Rong, a Chinese
automobile tycoon who fled the country after being accused of
economic crimes, is preparing to launch an ambitious plan to
make clean-tech cars in the United States, said a source.
The former chairman of Brilliance China Automotive Holdings
Ltd (1114.HK), ranked by Forbes as China's third-richest man in
2001, will announce a plan later this month to set up a company
in the southern U.S. state of Alabama, said the source with
direct knowledge of the plan.
Yang could not be immediately reached for comment.
Support for the plan had come from former U.S. Vice
President Al Gore, one of the world's most visible
environmental activists and now a partner at U.S. venture
capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, said the source,
declining to be more specific.
A spokeswoman for Gore said he was not immediately
available to comment.
Yang's plans to return to the auto industry after fleeing
to the United States in late 2002 first emerged in various
Chinese media reports, which did not provide details.
Now living in California, he has hired a former senior
executive of top U.S. carmaker General Motors Corp GMGMQ.PK
to run the firm's daily operations, said the source.
The firm is also seeking financial support from the U.S.
Department of Energy, which is in charge of a mega-sized fund
to support environmentally friendly energy projects, the source
David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research
in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said such a venture could cost billions
of dollars and would run headlong into tough competition.
"Until there is more detail, it is really hard to know,"
Cole said. "But I would still say good luck, because it is a
very formidable task, particularly in the competitive market
that already exists, and will be very much developing around
the so-called clean cars."
SWEET HOME ALABAMA
Yang will cooperate with the Alabama state government on
the project, expected to create thousands of jobs in its
initial phase, the source said, speaking on condition of
anonymity as the source was not authorized to speak to the
"The Alabama government definitely welcomes the plan as the
new firm, which owns big land in the state, will build a plant
there and hire local workers," the source said.
Alabama economic development officials had no comment.
Yang was China's most influential carmaker at one time as
he helped transform Brilliance from a stagnant state-owned auto
factory into a top maker of mini-vans in the country.
Brilliance later became a household brand and a
manufacturing partner of German carmaker BMW (BMWG.DE) in
Yang's new company will manufacture cars in Alabama, with
plans to sell them nationwide, while it also seeks partners in
China where the tycoon hopes to produce cars for local
consumers, said the source.
"All cars made in the U.S. will be sold in the U.S. and the
firm will also make cars in China and sell cars to Chinese
consumers, but key technologies will be definitely controlled
by people in the U.S.," said the source.
However, the source acknowledged that Yang's politically
sensitive background might lead to legal challenges for the
firm's China plans because the government has not cleared his
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Andre Grenon)