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Watch out for the Chinese clones!
Chinese cars imitate BMW and Mercedes
By Doug Neilson
China is going through an amazing change at present. The old ways are being phased out and capitalism has begun to run absolutely wild. With this, the economy has flourished, a distinct middle class has developed, and experts are predicting that China is destined, with its know-how and staggering population, to become the next world superpower by 2020.
When planning a recent trip to China, I had read all of the warnings in my travel literature and many friends had passed on their fist-hand experiences: “Don't be tricked in the market,” “Don't be fooled by brand-name tags, logos and labeling,” and “This is how you can tell the difference between the real McCoy and a fake.”
It seemed that many unsuspecting tourists had been getting duped in the local Chinese markets, and were coming home with cheap imitations of well-known brands and jewels.
China manufactures high-quality goods for many world brands, so it is unfortunate to hear of such stories. However, when I finally ended up on Chinese soil, I found that things were very easy to figure out using a little common sense (i.e. don't buy if you are not sure), and I also found that the people were very honest and extremely friendly.
So at this point you are probably thinking, “So what the hell does all of this have to do with European cars?” Well hang on, I'm just getting to that!
While on vacation, I was skimming though the local English-language newspaper, the China Daily, and stumbled upon a full page ad for BYD Automobiles, a newish Chinese automaker. I stared in utter disbelief, as there on the page was the most amazing BMW logo rip-off I have ever seen. At first I laughed, and then I started to get annoyed, because in my opinion the BYD logo design was truly a purposeful and blatant re-creation.
The BYD logo is oval, instead of round. The colour scheme is identical to BMW's and the font is similar. The only changes to the layout are the positioning of the three letters (beginning with “B”) are at the bottom, instead of the top, and that the “roundel” centre portion is halved, instead of quartered. I made a mental note that day to do some research into BYD when I returned home from my trip.
My research did turn up some interesting information. BYD is a major cell phone battery company based in Shenzhen and with a manufacturing plant in Xi'an. The company started its automobile manufacturing division in early 2003 when it purchased a majority stake in the Tsinchuan Automobile Company, a state-approved car producer.
Further searching showed that BMW is already on to them, and that it is not particularly pleased. It will be rather interesting to see what eventually happens, if anything. Also, it turns out that another German automaker has a bone to pick with BYD as well. Mercedes-Benz is also outraged by BYD's F8 model, introduced in 2007. It is the spitting image of the latest CLK, albeit, a little more compact, and having a retractable hardtop.
Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, however, it is very easy to see why BMW and Mercedes aren't impressed with BYD's imitations at all. It is obvious on the streets that the Chinese do have a taste for fine automobiles -- BMWs, Mercedes', and especially diplomatic black Audis were very common in grid-locked city traffic. What next, we wonder?
Doug Neilson is a freelance writer based in Calgary, Alberta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 CarTest.ca. Posted 3/16/2008.