The S1 is the first car in a full line-up of Porsche-rivaling models, Saleen promises.

Saleen traveled to the Los Angeles Auto Show to introduce a two-seater sports car named S1.

The model is aimed largely at the Chinese market, though it will also be offered in the United States. It takes the form of a two-door coupe powered by a mid-mounted turbocharged 2.3-liter engine that makes 450 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque. The four-cylinder's origins weren't revealed, but it could be an evolution of the EcoBoost four-cylinder found under the hood of the Focus RS and the entry-level Mustang.

"The gasoline version will come first, after its launch at the Los Angeles Auto Show in December. Then the electric version will follow in 2018," said Charles Wang, the chairman and CEO of Jiangsu Saleen Automotive Technology Co., in an interview with China Daily.

The model takes the form of a relatively compact coupe with proportions reminiscent of the Porsche 718 Cayman. The dashboard is both minimalist and contemporary, and the center console is dominated by a vertical touch screen.

Saleen will manufacture the S1 in a factory that's currently under construction in Rugao, a city located north of Shanghai. The company is investing 17.8 billion yuan (about $2.68 billion) into the facility. Construction work will end in June of next year, and the plant will have an annual capacity of about 150,000 cars. Clearly, it plans on making more than low-volume sports cars.

Pricing for the S1 hasn't been revealed yet. Saleen promises to adopt an unprecedented distribution model; it's "neither through traditional 4S dealerships, nor like Tesla's direct sales," according to Wang. More details will emerge in the coming months.

What's next?

Through its Chinese joint venture, Saleen wants to morph into a full-fledged automaker capable of rivaling the biggest names in the industry. The brand has Porsche and Maserati in its crosshair.

"For example, Porsche will elaborate on its GT and 918 models, but what brings good sales are popular models like the Cayenne, Macan, and Panamera. We will take a similar path and produce all sorts of passenger cars including sedans, SUVs, and crossovers," Wang affirmed.

He added Saleen may need to find a partner with which to develop inexpensive electric vehicles for the masses in order to secure a car-building license from Chinese authorities. The model will rely on Saleen's technology, but they won't join the company's line-up of performance-oriented models.

Live images by Brian Williams.