Beijing Motor Show: Copycat culture

Chery saloon
23 Apr, 2012 7:02pm Mat Watson

Much has been made of the Chinese car industry's copycat culture. But this could come to an end because of the car buying public

China is the land of fake products. Fake Rolexes, fake Ralf Lauren Polo shirts and even fake Apple iPads, you can get them all in Beijing. And it's the same when it comes to cars.

There are many Chinese companies which borrow‚ bits of designs from other European and Japanese car makers, and many are being proudly displayed at the Beijing Motor Show pretty much alongside the very cars they are copying.

For instance there's a saloon from Englon Automobile which has a face that has clearly been styled to look like a Bentley Mulsanne. And there's a Chery that, shall we say, bears more than a passing resemblance to a Mercedes C-Class.

But the Chinese don't just copy luxury cars. Even cars so cheap that you wouldn't think they were worth forging are still copied. Example include the Gleagle with a rear that looks just like a Peugeot 107's, complete with single-piece glass tailgate, and then there's the perennial Chery QQ, which is a Chevy Matiz-a-like.

So why do the Chinese manufactures do it? Well for starters they can get away with it - pursuing a Chinese company for copyright infringement is a tricky business. What's more they don't see plagiarism as a bad thing. In fact, no place is the adage imitation is the sincerest form of flattery‚ so true. And sometimes they don't just flatter one manufacturer, but two. For instance, Hawtai has created an SUV which has the grille from a Jaguar XJ but the side profile of a Porsche Cayenne.

However, one Chinese journalist informed me that fake cars such as this are actually dying out due to the increased wealth of the Chinese people. He said: "We can get many European cars over here now, so people don't want the fakes. They want the real thing."

And it seems they're getting what they want. Look around the roads of Beijing, and you will now see more Volkswagens, Audis and Mercedes than Chinese cars. Well at least I thought they were genuine VWs, Mercs and Audis – they could of course just have been very good fakes.