Lee Iacocca has captivated Baby Boomers at every turn.
First, as they took to the highway in droves in the early 1960s, he gave them what they wanted the sporty but affordable Ford Mustang.
Twenty years later as chairman of the Chrysler Corp., Iacocca gave them what they needed the roomy but functional minivan.
Today, the affable 75-year-old is once again trying to tap the market of the Boomer generation with a bicycle. But not just any bicycle.
Iacocca's E-Bike can be pedaled like any other bike, but also can travel up to 15 mph, for a distance of 20 miles per charge, with a light-weight, battery-powered electric motor.
"It's a sexy bike. A Mercedes guy designed it for me. It's a safe bike," Iacocca said Wednesday at John Mecham Chrysler Plymouth Jeep on State Street, where he kicked off the 11th annual Business to Business Expo.
"This is going to be a multi-million dollar business in three to five years."
So far, sales have been modest with about 800 E-Bikes sold each month.
The E-Bike, which starts at $995 for the basic package and increases to $1,600 for the touring model, has been on the market in Utah since last summer, but only at a handful of dealerships. A few hundred have been sold by Mecham Chrysler Plymouth Jeep, which at one time last year was the leading seller of E-Bikes in the nation.
The E-Bike is the first product of EV Global Motors Co., Iacocca's latest venture, and will be followed, he promises, with other electric vehicles scooters, pedicabs and four-wheel "neighborhood" cars that will travel at speeds of 25 mph.
Iacocca fully expects car makers, particularly in Japan and China, to begin competing with him in the electric bicycle market. But he does not expect to see electric automobiles hit the market not as a viable, profit-making venture anytime soon.
"I fooled with a (electric car) battery for 25 years, mostly at Ford, and most of them blew up," Iacocca told a small gathering at the dealership.
"Honda and Toyota are selling one (an electric car) for $20,000 already, and soon will bring it to America, but they admit it costs $40,000" to manufacture.
Iacocca said EV Global Motors is targeting the active person between age 45 and 55, and is developing a model that can be easily strapped onto an RV, truck or other vehicle.
Iacocca said the electric motor has excellent response that gives E-Bike riders an advantage when starting from a dead stop at an intersection.
"At full throttle, it can beat a Corvette," through the intersection after the light changes, he said.
For more information on the E-Bike, see the company's Web site at www.ebike.com.
The Business to Business Expo is billed as the largest trade show of its kind in the Intermountain West with more than 250 companies and 350 booths displaying new and innovative products and services. About 14,000 people are expected to attend the event through Friday at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
There is no charge for admission to the Expo. For more information, call the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at 364-3631.
You can reach Zack Van Eyck by e-mail at [email protected]