News that Malcolm Bricklin's Visionary Vehicles LLC had secured $225 million in funding has heightened dealer interest in selling the nascent importer's Chinese-built cars, a spokeswoman says.

Bricklin, who aims to launch U.S. sales of Chery Automobile Co. Ltd. vehicles in fall 2007, says he has signed a $225 million funding agreement with Atlantic-Pacific Capital, allowing for his joint venture with Chery to move forward.

A Visionary spokeswoman tells Ward's the financial pipeline has increased dealer interest in the auto maker “by a mile.”

“One of (Visionary's) new salesmen was supposed to meet two dealers in the lobby of the Peabody hotel (in Orlando, FL, site of last week's National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention) and 40 dealers showed up,” she says. “This announcement opened up a floodgate of both people who decided to schedule their closings and new people who came to the fold.”

She says 70-75 dealers will soon close on a franchise agreement with Visionary, with about 200 dealers going through the “due diligence pipeline.”

Bricklin wants 250 U.S. dealers in place at launch.

Of the dealers already signed, about 25% are tackling zoning issues and making changes to existing facilities, the spokeswoman says.

Visionary's dealer board, headed by New Jersey Honda dealer Tim Ciasulli, is working to establish facility requirements, which should be set in the next 60 days, she says.

“So a large number, about 50% of the dealers, are waiting to hear what those (requirements) are before they make a move,” she adds.

Bricklin originally called for grand, standalone facilities, which included test tracks and video walls, and wanted dealers to invest upward of $10 million.

He later backed off on those requirements, saying Visionary dealers could sell vehicles out of existing buildings and invest just $2 million.