All the usual clichés apply to Wael Rizk. A day short and a dollar late. Good things come to those who wait. Etc.
Rizk followed an improbable path and now seems to be on the verge of realizing a long-held dream.
Rizk is a one-man band at his company, Rizk Auto. But this week, out of Phoenix, Arizona, he will launch sales of his first car, the RA, a modern remake of the classic Aston Martin sports car, the DBR2.
An improbable path
For Rizk, this has been a dream almost 15 years in the making. After graduating from the American University in Cairo (AUC), Rizk, a Cairene, wanted to pursue his passion for cars by designing and manufacturing cars in Egypt.
So he decided to set up shop in a Sixth of October, taking advantage of the duty free zones the government had set up there.
Unfortunately for Rizk, Egyptian bureaucracy was not about to let it happen.
“I believed I could have easily gotten the paperwork done myself, he said. “I should have gone to a law firm.
Two and a half years and a good deal of his own money later, Rizk abandoned his efforts to carve out some manufacturing space in one of the tax free zones. Rizk says he wasn’t established enough to win the government’s support.
Rizk left the world of cars in search of a financial win. Taking advantage of the dot-com boom, Rizk took a job at a web startup. But the company was a beat too late. Just as the company was supposed to turn major profits, the tech bubble burst, and Rizk once again found his dreams deferred.
His disappointment in the dot-com sector, he said, refocused him on his passion for cars.
“I decided I needed to go back to what I love most: cars, he said.
Frustrated with his inability to break through Egyptian bureaucracy, Rizk made the move to the United States, determined to design his own car.
He chose to settle in Phoenix, Arizona. The reasons for the move were many and varied, and Rizk says that he made the right choice.
“The US has right now what I consider to be the best rates for labor, he said.
Arizona is also near major markets like Texas, Las Vegas, and southern California. Not only are these large markets, but they boast some of the high net-worth individuals that Rizk will need in order to sell his sports cars.
Setting up shop in Phoenix, he launched his latest project, Rizk Automobile Corporation, in early 2005.
The Aston Martin DBR2 is a member of an elite class of sports cars. Manufactured in 1957, the car became one of the top racecars in the world.
Rizk has long been in love with it.
So Rizk decided to take the classic design and subject it to a 21st century treatment.
Adorning all the company’s literature, in brochures and on its website (www.rizkauto.com), is Rizk’s motto: “Yesterday Engineered for Tomorrow. It’s this ethos, said Rizk, that he’s tried to infuse into his new car, the RA.
Rizk first decided he needed to maintain the car’s racing legacy while making it more passenger friendly.
“I made the car much wider and much longer. I made it much roomier, much more spacious, he said.
Rizk prides himself as a designer. His AUC education, he quips, didn’t prepare him to redesign an engine, but he’s putting together a full package, frame and body, he hopes will marry the latest in auto technology with the rich history of car racing.
In order to bring the technical expertise on board, Rizk approached Devalco Aviation Services, which is an FAA approved airplane repair operation. They have never worked with autos.
After making his pitch for why Devalco should sign onto his project, Rizk said the CEO was taken with the idea and quickly agreed.
The benefit of bringing a company like Devalco on board was the ability to push the technological envelope with the RA.
“The technology [in the RA] is only available in a very, very limited number of cars, Rizk said.
For one, Rizk built the car’s chasse out of carbon fiber, rendering it stronger – in case of collision – and lighter – for the sake of performance.
The chasse, he said, weighs 320 pounds, versus an estimated 600 to 700 pounds for a standard Porsche.
The result, he says, will be major improvement in performance.
“My car, with a Porsche engine, would outperform a Porsche easily, easily by 2 to 3 seconds from 0-60, he said.
Rizk finally realized his long-held dream when, recently, Devalco delivered him his first car.
“The first time I drove it was amazing, he said.
Rizk plans to sell each car for $150,000. He’s committed to turning modest profits up front, only upping prices once the brand catches on.
The direct cost of manufacturing each car is between $105,000 and $115,000. Add advertising and other costs, Rizk is operating at a slim margin.
To help advertise the car, Rizk is hoping to get the RA reviewed in a number of newspapers and magazines. He also said he plans to advertise in various auto magazines and to be included in auto shows.
Rizk also intends to conduct what he calls “passive marketing, where he’ll take the car to high profile spots around Las Vegas and Los Angeles in order to generate buzz.
To start, Rizk says he plans to sell 10 to 20 cars a year. His limited manufacturing resources coupled with the niche market his car is targeting means that he’s planning to start on a small scale.
The next chapter
Rizk says he hopes to take his company in new directions soon after sales of the RA begin to take off. He intends to work on coach building and on designing his own car.
For the moment, though, he has no plans to return to Cairo.
“It’s actually impossible to manufacture [the RA] in Egypt because the government has banned the importation of carbon fiber because they say carbon fiber can be used to make rockets, he said.
As his company begins to take off, though, the thought of moving back to Egypt, he says, will always be on his mind.
“My passion, he said, “has always been trying to make it in Egypt.
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