The collapse of GM and Chrysler in recent months has seen the manufacturing employees and the extensive dealer networks of both firms suffer heavily, but now there may be a new and revolutionary product in sight that not only gives flailing dealers a chance to pick themselves up but may also keep manufacturing jobs alive.

The simple idea is to take new vehicles from Chrysler and GM and upgrade their interiors and install fuel-efficient powertrains. One entrepreneur considering such an option is Malcolm Bricklin, a man who is widely recognized for his efforts importing Subaru, Fiat and Yugo vehicles, as well as dabbling in the electric car industry back in the 1990s.

His company, Visionary Vehicles, spent much of 2006 wooing China’s Chery Auto for the rights to distribute the company cars in the U.S., but stringent safety standards in the U.S. prevented this taking off the ground.

His latest idea is to buy around 300,000 new vehicles from GM and Chrysler every year and retrofit them with what he describes as a “hydrogen hybrid” powertrain. While actual specifics on how the technology works have not been mentioned, speaking with the Boston Herald Bricklin boasted that he has a product that can make cars “get 100% better mileage."

Despite the obvious benefits for the U.S. auto industry, whether or not the public embraces the idea remains uncertain. Hydrogen technology has been maligned for its impracticality for mainstream automotive applications, but Bricklin is confident that he can have a working concept within the next three months.

With such a hit-and-miss record previously, it’s anyone's guess whether Bricklin's plan will succeed - if the results of his previous plans for a Chinese-built hybrid are anything to go by, however, we wouldn't hold our breath.