The Car Geek: BMW, DCX: Chinese Are Copying Cars

The Car Geek

Thursday, September 13, 2007

BMW, DCX: Chinese Are Copying Cars

True. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. But too much of it is quite repulsive. In the auto industry, the latest victims of the alleged copying of cars are Germany’s BMW and DCX.

BMW AG claims that a Chinese automaker’s sport utility is very much similar to one of its own. This week, the German automaker filed suit in Frankfurt against Shuanghuan Automobile. The suit intends to preclude the Chinese automaker from selling its car model called the CEO. The Munich-based automaker said that the SUV was a copy of the BMW X5. ‘‘China is here and we are here at the fair,’’ said Karl Schloessl, the CEO of China Automobile, which plans to import and sell the car in Europe. He said that the car was designed independently.

‘‘We do not deny. We do not admit,’’ Schloessl told AP Television News. ‘‘One gets inspiration from every SUV, no matter whether it is Japanese, Chinese, German or French. When you look at a car today, no matter from which perspective, you will always discover similarities, even at the wheels.’’

The spat reflects wider concern among Western companies, many of whom want to do business in China's vast markets but also protect their own copyrights. Shuanghuan maintains that the CEO bears no resemblance to the X5, either in style or price, reported the Associated Press.

The X5's base price in Europe is 59,000 euros equivalent to $85,207, while the CEO's base model will sell for 25,900 euros or $37,396. At a glance, similarities cannot be denied. Additionally, the difference in price could lure shoppers into purchasing.

"The issue directly concerning BMW is that there is a Chinese carmaker trying to copy the side and rear view of the previous generation of our X5 model," said Wieland Bruch, a BMW spokesman. He added that a close inspection would reveal any differences, but a first impression would not.

Fearless, Shuanghuan's European importer, brought the sport utility to the Frankfurt auto show.

"China is BMW is not alone in its concern. Last week, DaimlerChrysler AG said it might take legal action against Shuanghuan Auto because its Noble resembled its Smart fortwo, a tiny two-seater aimed at buyers in big cities. Offering a vehicle so obviously similar to the Smart fortwo would be a violation of intellectual property," DCX said in a statement.

DCX Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche told reporters at the show that having cars that look too similar could be confusing "to our customers.''

Shuanghuan, on the other hand, has said that it does not think its Noble is similar to the fortwo, telling Dow Jones Newswires late last month that it was "only the media stirring things up.'' The Noble will not be displayed in Frankfurt Auto show which is scheduled on Sept. 13-23.

Similarities to Audi brake dust shields and other auto accessories could be tenable but imitation of the entire styling of a car is another story. Fair competition should prevail. It isn’t a simple issue to be ignored.