greatwallcoolbear.jpgAnother in our occasional series on strange-looking cars that you will only see on the roads of China.

Actually, the Great Wall Coolbear (pictured left) bears more than a
passing resemblance to the equally strange-looking Scion xB (pictured
below) which you will only see on the roads of the US. Toyota has been
selling the Scion in the US market for a few years.

According to specialist website,
the Great Wall Coolbear “looks like a pretty straightforward rip-off”
but so far Toyota has not been tempted to call in the lawyers.

Dave Leggit, MD of, says Chinese carmakers' propensity
to “borrow”designs from others is pretty widespread. Its not hard to
see why.

The practice slashes product development costs and if, as is usually
the case today, the copycat car is only going to be sold in China , the
foreign company that has had its IPR infringed will probably not want
to object too strongly. Leggit says:

Even if it does decide to do something about it, that means
negotiating the arcane Chinese legal system, which will take time and
might not yield a meaningful result anyway. It could also cause
political difficulties and many firms, understandably, decide on a
do-nothing strategy.”

Western OEMs expect that the more blatant rip-offs will gradually
disappear as Chinese carmakers develop the technology, design skills —
and confidence — to come up with their own original designs.

scion-xb.jpgAlternatively, they could short-circuit the learning curve and hand the task over to European car designers — read this EngagingChina story to see how famed Italian design houses Pininfarina and Giugaro are making inroads into China.

Nevertheless, I suspect that “reverse engineering” of foreign
designs is here to stay and few foreign carmakers are prepared to
jeopardise their participation in the world's second largest car market
by complaining too loudly about the practice.

Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.

Elsewhere on the automotive front:

  • Many western firms have horror stories about their Chinese JV
    partners. The latest involves Italian carmaker Fiat whose CEO, Sergio
    Marchionne pulls no punches in criticising its partner Nanjing
    Automotive in this story. Their JV has failed to meet production targets and
    Marchionne believes Nanjing is deliberately sidelining the JV because
    it is now more interested in developing the MG brand, which it acquired
    from the receivers when UK carmaker MG Rover went bankrupt — see this EngagingChina
    story for background. Divorce seems inevitable and Fiat is now looking
    around for another partner, possibly SAIC or Chery Automobile, with
    which it already has relationships.

  • Chinese carmaker Geely plans to open
    an R&D centre in Jinan city, Shandong province, its third such
    centre in China. Foreign research centres from seven countries have
    expressed an interest in collaborating with the new centre, according
    to AutoChina.

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