Chinese rip-offs of Western automakers
For the last century, China has been the leading front for the war on counterfeit products. Most people are familiar with the battles music and movie companies have had to fight in China, but a new front on the war is beginning to rear its ugly head and it has US and European automakers in a tizzy. Chinese copies of western automobiles are going from being a rare sighting to an every day occurrence. The main stream media has yet to catch onto the story, but many autophiles have been squawking about it for years, and it appears that folks in Detroit are beginning to pay attention.
Recent reports of certain automakers in China outright copying the look of Western cars have been met by a flurry of lawsuits. Chinese automakers like Shuanghuan Auto are accused of copying cars like the BMW X5, while Hongqiís limousine bears a striking resemblance to the Lincoln Town Car. In some comparison pictures, you canít even tell the original from the copy, as in the case of the SMA Shanghai Maple and the Audi S4 Cabrio.
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Shuanghuan Auto Ceo and BMW X5
But a recent introduction by Chinese automaker CMEC of an absolute clone of the popular Smart car has got many saying the trend has gone too far. The City Smart car from CMEC runs on a purely electric engine and only has a top speed of only 34 miles per hour, making it truly a city-only car. But it isnít the electric engine that has the Smart car folks up in arms; it is the fact that the two cars are essentially indistinguishable from each other. As you can imagine, the lawsuits and legal threats are already flying between the two companies. CMEC reports that the front end of the car and the trunk have been modified as to not appear identical to the Smart car, but it is not clear if these changes will be enough to dissuade any further legal action. A duplicate version of the Smart fortwo, under the name City Smart, has already appeared in Hungary and Great Britain.
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SMA Shanghai Maple and Audi S4 Cabrio
The Smart Car folks arenít the only ones letting lawsuits fly. General Motors is claiming that their Chevrolet Spark has been copied by Chinaís Chery Automobile Company in the form of their QQ. And upon seeing side by side pictures of the two cars, it is difficult to say that you are even looking at two different models.
One major problem that GM might face is the fact that the Chery line of cars is owned by the Chinese Government who have been less than zealous of ridding their country of counterfeit products. GM has reported that mediation efforts between the two companies have been fruitless and that further legal action may be required.
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Chevrolet Spark and Chery QQ
Independent analysis of the China-Western car feud has said that this relentless copying could be the single biggest obstacle in allowing Chinese automakers into Western countries to sell their product. As soon as they try to step into the US market or any Western market, for that matter, companies like GM are going to put a stop to it until these copies are no longer sold. It could be a stalemate that stalls Chinaís burgeoning auto industry before it ever has a chance to get going.
More images can be seen here.