With China’s car market booming, we look at the shameless copycat cars Chinese marques are selling – and explain how they get away with it
The car industry in China is getting bigger by the day. Back in 2013, Chinese manufacturers produced an almighty 18.7 millions cars, which equated to 22.7 per cent of the globe’s total car production for that year. Many of those models were from brands which will be familiar to western drivers, and others were built by companies we’ve never heard of before. However there is a third group in this Venn diagram: cars made by obscure brands that still manage to spark a sense of déjà vu. These are the Chinese copycat cars.
• Shanghai Motor Show 2017
Many of China’s domestic car brands have a less than proud history when it comes to copying car designs from other manufacturers. The practice is less common than it once was but some Chinese models are still blatant rip-offs that are barely distinguishable from the vehicles that inspired them. Yet more are subtler imitations of the original source material.
In the past we’ve seen MINI lookalikes, bargain basement Range Rover Evoques, and even an attempt to replicate the grandeur of a Rolls-Royce. So we’ve selected some of the best copy-and-paste jobs out there, and placed them side-by-side with their doppelgangers for your convenience.
Scroll down to view our pick of the recent Chinese copycat cars, and let us know what you think of their efforts in the comments section…
China’s copycat cars: are they legal?
We spoke to Oliver Tidman, a solicitor at intellectual property law firm BRIFFA, to find out what legal standing a car maker has if it thinks its design has been copied by another.
“There is no international copyright law,” he told us, “but there are international agreements such as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. These require countries to recognise each other’s intellectual property laws.
“Copyright laws vary from one country to another, and while the rules may differ, the principles are similar.”
And it’s not simply a material object that would be the subject of breaking copyright law, but the original design itself. “In the UK, copyright law protects certain types of work, including artistic,” Tidman added. “In terms of car designs, it’s likely that copyright would subsist in any original 2D graphic – on a computer screen or a drawing.”
If a company does think a design has been copied, however, it’s not that easy to prove. “The company would have to prove that there has been copying by assessing the objective similarities and deciding whether those similarities are the result of independent creation, or whether the infringing design has been derived from the original design,” said our expert. “There must be a causal connection between the two works, which can be difficult to prove.”
In addition to copyright protection, it is possible to register designs. “If the design or prototype is deemed original, it is possible to obtain registered design protection for up to 25 years,” Tidman explained.
Copycat cats: Do these look familiar?
Check-out the copycat cars below, alongside the models they seem to have drawn inspiration from…
LandWind X7 and Range Rover Evoque
Jiangling’s LandWind X7 has long been known as a very convincing copy of the Range Rover Evoque, and although their use of a lurid green paintjob was previously a major giveaway, the adoption of a far more sensible (but still rather brash) white body for the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show has made telling the two apart even more difficult.
Land Rover has been so irked by the Chinese company’s behaviour that they are reportedly suing them for copyright infringement, though no updates on that front have surfaced since 2016.
Copied: Range Rover Evoque
Copycat: LandWind X7
Zotye T600 and Volkswagen Tiguan
Zotye’s T600 was originally revealed at the Beijing Motor Show in 2015, and was immediately considered to be a doppelganger of VW Group’s Audi Q5 and VW Touareg. Fast forward to 2017 and this latest version of the large SUV appears to have morphed into a Volkswagen Tiguan. Must be a coincidence.
Copied: Volkswagen Tiguan
Copycat: Zotye T600
Zotye SR9 and Porsche Macan
Another Zotye, another injection of déjà vu. Their SR9 was proudly on display at the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show, but if you look closely you might be able to pick up on a Porsche Macan vibe. There’s just something about the styling… and the grille… and the headlights… and the doors. We can’t quite put our finger on it, though.
Copied: Porsche Macan
Copycat: Zotye SR9
Hanteng electric concept and Jaguar I-Pace
Chinese car maker Hanteng Autos is an extremely new brand, having reportedly launched in China 2016. And despite only being a fledgling company, they have managed to do in 12 months what took Jaguar 83 years (founded 1934), by arriving at a design eerily similar to the I-Pace with their 2017 electric concept. Uncanny.
Copied: Jaguar I-Pace
Copycat: Hanteng electric concept
Zotye E200 and Smart ForTwo
The Zotye E200 is a small, two-door electric car designed for the city, in the same way that the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive will be a small, two-door electric car designed for the city. Though the Smart isn’t due to go on sale until September 2017, Zotye can’t claim that their vehicle is the one being imitated on this occasion. Why? Their ForTwo-mimicking ways aren’t new, evidence of which stems from the E30 they showcased at the Shanghai Motor Show in 2015…
Copied: Smart ForTwo
Copycat: Zotye E200
Lifan Xuanlang and Ford S-MAX
Another exhibit at the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show, the Lifan Xuanlang MPV apparently entered the Chinese market just a few weeks prior to the event itself. Prices start at around 69,000 Chinese Yuan (approx £7,835), and any similarity to the Ford S-MAX is purely coincidental. Honest.
Copied: Ford S-MAX
Copycat: Lifan Xuanlang
G Patton and Hummer
With a name relating to George S. Patton, the famous and highly-respected US Army General who commanded the Seventh Army during World War 2, there’s no doubting which country the G Patton is inspired by.
The 19-foot long 4×4 mixes a whole number of classic and American off-roaders as well as bespoke Army vehicles. It can come as a seven-seater or with a cinema in the back and two luxury chairs, and it’s powered by a 6.8-litre V10 producing 357bhp.
Copycat: G Patton
Hongqi LS5 and Range Rover
The Hongqi LS5 proves that the Evoque isn’t the only Range Rover product China seems so keen on, but also the big daddy of the range. Sitting alongside the bizarrely-styled L5 limo, the LS5 uses the previous generation Range Rover as its styling model, just stretched a bit to suit more Chinese tastes.
There’s even a hint of the Jeep Grand Cherokee at the front too. Inside, the passengers are treated to lots of luxury gizmos along with a dashboard that has a passing resemblance to – surprise, surprise – an old Range Rover’s. Under the bonnet is a turbocharged 4.0-litre petrol pushing out around 510bhp.
Copied: Range Rover
Copycat: Hongqi LS5
Eagle and Porsche Cayman
The Eagle is a car designed to show off the country’s expertise in producing an electric sports cars, but there’s no getting away from which cars the designer has taken his cues from. We believe it’s powered by a tiny battery pack that gives just a top speed of around 70mph and a 160-miles range – a sharp contrast to the looks.
There’s no getting away from how much like the Eagle looks like a Porsche Cayman with a Ferrari F12 nose grafted on. Even the badge is a near copy of the Porsche’s iconic golden shield.
Copied: Porsche Cayman
JAC A6 and Audi A6
While some companies won’t let on just which car they might be imitating, it seems that JAC was quite happy to own up when it badged its latest release the A6. Yes, that’s right, the A6.
Not only does it have the exact same name as the Audi A6 saloon, but it looks very similar to the original model. It’s the grille and stepped headlights that really give the game away.
Copied: Audi A6
Copycat: JAC A6
BAIC X424 and Jeep Cherokee
Another model that looks more like a merging of two cars than just a single copy of one. The BAIC X424 has a hint of the Jeep Cherokee at the front with the large grille openings, while the side profile is clearly taken from the rugged Wrangler model. Perhaps the company felt that customers wouldn’t be happy with just one Jeep and instead wanted the best of both.
Copied: Jeep Cherokee
Copycat: BAIC X424
BYD S7 and Lexus RX
While some imitations are fairly obvious at a glance, others are disguised a little better. The BYD S7 may not have the look of the Lexus RX from the front, but there’s no hiding the similarities towards the rear, with the same curved windows, small spoiler and tail-lights. BYD has done a decent job of keeping this quiet, but not good enough.
Copied: Lexus RX
Copycat: BYD S7
Geely GE and Rolls-Royce Phantom
Fancy the luxury of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, but don’t quite have the £305,000 to cover the costs? Well the Geely GE might just be the thing for you. It’s got the big chrome grille and even an imitation Spirit of Ecstasy on the bonnet. Just make sure nobody gets too close to see what it actually is.
Copied: Rolls-Royce Phantom
Copycat: Geely GE
Lifan 330 and MINI
The round headlights, that front grille and the cheeky hatchback shape… the Lifan 330 has more than a hint of the second-generation MINI Cooper about it. When it was launched at April’s Beijing Motor Show, even the press release hailed the car as fashionable, artistic and with ‘mini’ temperament. Lifan was just ahead of the British brand with the five-door bodystyle, however, but that’s no excuse.
Copycat: Lifan 330
Chery Riich M1 and Toyota Yaris
The Chery Riich M1 is a small hatchback designed for inner city commuters. While the front end is ugly enough to not really resemble anything on UK roads, the curvaceous side profile and rear of the car look like a direct lift from the Toyota Yaris MkII. Fortunately for Toyota that’s where the similarities end, and it’s unlikely to ever be any real competition to the established – and far more attractive – hatchback.
Copied: Toyota Yaris
Copycat: Chery Riich M1
Brilliance V5 and BMW X1
Brilliance is the partner of BMW in China, and the X1 compact crossover went on sale in the country through the partnership. So, it’s interesting to see that Brilliance launched its very own rival to the X1, dubbed the V5. It’s probably one of the closest copies we’ve ever seen. Of course, this version is cheaper than the BMW model, but is only sold in China.
Copied: BMW X1
Copycat: Brilliance V5