It has been a while since we ran a Chinese copycat car story, so step forward Geely to take this month's prize with its “copycat Roller”. The Geely GE, on show at this week's Shanghai Auto Show, is a carbon copy of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, the favoured runabout of British aristocracy and oil sheiks.
With an estimated price of around $44,000 for the Geely GE — it stands for Geely Excellence — against $365,000 for the British-made Phantom, I suspect that few potential buyers are likely to be fooled.
Nevertheless, Rolls-Royce is consulting its lawyers after seeing the copycat Roller displayed “just feet away” from the Rolls Royce Phantom at the Shanghai show. A Rolls-Royce spokesman told the Daily Mail:
Our colleagues in Shanghai are taking a serious look at it. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is very protective of its brand image and takes seriously any attempt to imitate its products. Rolls-Royce is currently keeping its options open and is in consultation with its legal advisers.
The Geely GE even sports a winged figure on its hood, similar to the famous Flying Lady mascot that adorns every Rolls-Royce.
To cater for the aspirations of Shanghai's upwardly mobile, the The Geely GE comes with such essential features as an oxygen bar, cigar storage, wine cabinet, refrigerator and a “starlight” interior roof — a key feature on the original Phantom.
The take-home from this story is not so much that a Chinese company has once again copied a western brand but rather that Geely sees a market in China for such a politically incorrect vehicle. Despite its obvious drawbacks — its big, costly to run and clearly not the Real Thing — the Geely GE has a glass interior divider between the front and back, so catering for China's nouveau riche who want to ape British aristocracy by having a chauffeur drive them around.