• Dec 19, 2008



Take a close look at the image. A court in Italy has just ruled that the crossover pictured above, the five-seat CEO built by Shuanghuan Automobile of Shijiazhuang, China, is not a clone of the BMW X5. Um... yeah. The legal battles began when Shuanghuan introduced their "Noble" last year, a near-clone of the Smart fortwo. Mercedes-Benz wasn't impressed, and threatened a lawsuit. Shortly thereafter, BMW started losing sleep over the Chinese CEO, an obvious facsimile of their previous-generation X5 (E53). The Bavarian automaker took Shuanghuan to court in Munich this past summer and won their case, and when Martin Motors (the distributor of Shuanghuan Automobiles in Italy and central Europe) started selling the CEO in early 2007, BMW again took legal action, this time in the Italian judicial system.

Last week, the Germans met their defeat when the Italian courts rejected their claims. To date, Martin Motors has sold about 200 copies of the CEO and expects to sell about 1200 this year in their European markets. "We are convinced the CEO wasn't a clone of the X5. We are happy to see our view supported by a court ruling," said an obviously pleased spokesperson from Martin Motors. We have to wonder how quickly the Italians would change their tune if Shuanghuan began to knock-off the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4.

[Source: Automotive News, subs. req'd]



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  • 47 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Methinks the Italians would care a little more if they started copying Ferraris than Lambos. I know they're highly coveted here, but in Italy they're considered an export to America. Oversized, cold, austere, they'll take a Ferrari any day.

      At least that's what my friend who works at Pagani said when I emailed him this.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I see a Kia Rondo. go look at this pic.
      http://www.tirekick.com/TK06-May/images/KiaRondo-1.jpg
      • 6 Years Ago
      Seriously though, where's the harm? I mean sure, some people will probably buy this car because it looks like a BMW, other's will buy it because it's a cheap SUV (and very probably a pretty dismal one, at that). But the thing is, everyone knows the original design is BMW's, and it's a good and succesful design, otherwise our Chinese friends wouldn't be copying it. It's just that we've grown so accustomed to copyright laws and other legislative actions taken to protect original ideas that we've forgotten that those laws are just something we came up with fairly recently. It's not like they're set in stone, right? Is it in every way a bad thing that good designs get copied? The individualistic way of thought that is so dominant in the western world is simply not the way many Chinese think. They see a good design, they make a few adjustments on their own (not necessarily to the better) and they market a product that can be either seen as a clone or a hommage to the original design. Which way you see it depends on your point of view, no one can say that one is better than the other.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The problem I have with these Chinese automakers is their lack concern for modern day safety standards, unregulated pollution in their native country, hypocritical uneven distribution of wealth, and of course their disregard of intellectual property laws (recent as they may be, I'm sure they got the memo). I dread the day when American consumers can go to a dealership and purchase a Chinese car, because I know they will sell to our low-income households just as well as Hyundais, Kias, Geos, and other cheap cars have. Meanwhile unemployment is through the roof and one of America's cornerstone industries is faltering. Here's an idea - tarriffs for carmakers who have previously not imported cars to the USA (Alfa just made the cutoff) to prevent new imported car brands at a time when our own car industry needs as many prospective customers as they can get. No one can claim that they don't already have enough choices, and if they want a Cherry or Geely so badly they can pay the tax to buy it instead of a Cruze or a Focus.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I guess the issue is when/if the Chinese get really good at copying the real thing, and the lines get blurred even more. Also, I know plenty of women (and some men) who wouldn't have a clue this thing wasn't a BMW.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm inclined to side w/ "hbh" on this one. I understand the purpose of intellectual property laws, but I also understand them to be canted toward what I like to call a "devine right to stagnation", as if the IP lawyers are arguing "I hold the patent on the cube shaped car, so damn it, no one else can use the cube when designing a car!" Of course, this line of thinking fosters a growing sense of entitlement among all people and corporations, which, as it turns out, lines the pockets of IP attorneys all too willing to sue, sue, sue. Neat little racket, no?

        But what if the design of the CEO were even closer to the BMW? An exact clone. I mean, right down to the failed power window actuator at 13,000 miles, or the shorted out HVAC controls at 17,000 miles. What if the CEO even copied the front strut failure at 23,000 miles, and the snooty dealership experience telling their repeat customer that there is nothing wrong with the $61,000 purchase, that everything was "in spec", or that "This is a BMW. BMWs are wonderful to drive, but require many compromises (read: maintenance $) to achieve driving perfection. If you wanted a trouble free car that drove like crap, you should have bought a Toyota." What if that's how closely Shuanghuan copied BMW?

        What we'd have here folks is what Walmart deals with everyday on its shelves. A presumed "good" DVD player (Sony), and a presumed "discount" or "bad" DVD player (Suny -with StereoPhonic Super Sound! -You Buy, You Like!). At the end of the day, each mark's reputation is what they have to protect. Frankly, that's up to BMW to earn, not litigate.

        So, I say let them copy. Let 'em all copy away at each other. And then let the copiers try to earn themselves out of a reputation of making cheap copies of expensive marks. I can't think of an example where this strategy actually worked long term, without the copier eventually making a quality product in the end (Hyundai). As long as there is no true fraud (like trying to pass the CEO as a genuine BMW X5), and as long as all buyer's beware (a responsibility We the Entitled tend to shirk), there's truly no harm done.

        In fact, we the buyers, win.

        Read Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, John Locke, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Probably couldn't finish the front because they ran out of money..

      Seriously, I think they did that on purpose so it was JUST enough of a difference to allow them to get away with it. It was planned, not like they just came up with this idea on the fly.

      Yea, I also agree, if this was an imitation Ferrari that even SLIGHTLY resembled an enzo or even a 355, they would have a much different conclusion.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Too many posts to read, but I'll bet lira to euros that the eytie court would have seen it different if the Chinese had copied a Ferrari.

      Which is sure to happen. ROFLMAO!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Who would buy either one of those ugly lumps of steel, regardless of the name/badge on the front?
      • 6 Years Ago
      'The entire Chinese culture and being etc. is illegally copying from somebody else..'

      and, 'they have yet to produce an original idea'.

      What!

      Nobody admires a rip-off and the Chinese are certainly lacking confidence when it comes to modern design, but there's more to the world than cars. Quite a lot of what we take for granted originated in China, as we all know if we'd only admit it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Big j, it’s as a result of American involvement in Asian countries that a big chunk of their populations now live like human beings and not in shanties. It’s because of American involvement that the Asians adopted baseball. It’s as a result of American ingenuity and original thinking that the Asians now have electricity, the internet, advanced industrialized machinery and even enlightened regard for a semblance of democracy.

      This is the greatest nation on Earth. I don’t give a hoot about your propaganda.

      And big j, ever heard of Papyrus?

      Agree with Sea Urchin.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I majored in international business management and spent 1 year in Beijing University + worked in Shenzhen for almost 2 years. I have seen several of these in Shenzhen and they are not only copied verssions of the previous X5, but many people in China re-badge them with BMW logos. Say much?

      It is not racist to say that the modern chinese culture revolves around the assimilation of american and european culture. The problem is that it is done so quickly and recklessly that it ends in a mish mash of all the wrong stuff.

      Counterfeit watches in China used to cost 5% of the real watch, now they cost upwards of 75%. Why? Because they look better even though they fail within a week. I heard that phrase way too many times, "But looks are the same, see?"

      Now, I spent alot of time in China and studying Chinese philosophy and history and not all of it was anywhere close to this. I would say this cultural change has been like this for the last 10-12 years. The CEO is a copy of the X5, its not even a question, but it seems someone is greasing the italian judicial pockets.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That was my suspicion too. Italy is the most wonderful country, but the corruption makes it hard even for Italians to survive sometimes.
      • 6 Years Ago

      What if they start Ferraris or Lambos next?
      • 6 Years Ago
      It isn't the courts' job to keep out Chinese clones. The real solution is for the EU (and US) to pass laws that address this problem and bar companies (or entire Chinese industries) from their markets if they don't adhere to the rules and show some sensibilities.

      This kind of thing is legal in China, btw. It's very common in consumer electronics to make a device very similar to another. Physical similarity is allowed to a near 100% degree, the only big restriction is you cannot copy the name or the logos used by the company you are knocking off.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Can't exactly bar whole industries or China will bar access to their market. Only reason why foreign makes put up with joint partnerships with a domestic Chinese make is because of the lucrative market there. The thing to do is to continue pressure with lawsuits as soon as any infringing Chinese product makes it to foreign shores. Eventually the companies will get it and start making less blatant copies (the styling may still be derivative like most cars today, but at least it won't be blatant copies where they copy the front of some car and the back of another and put it together as a new car).
      • 6 Years Ago
      Seriously? a copy?
      Look alike, but not a copy.
      http://www.core77.com/blog/20060814-2007-bmw-x5-e70-sideback-2.jpg
      And I'll let you google some images to compare the front side. Go ahead, do it!
        • 6 Years Ago
        it clearly says that CEO copied E53 X5.
        • 6 Years Ago
        LAST GENERATION X5. COMPARE 'EM AND THEN SEE.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Ok, my bad, but look at a E53 picture and you'llsee that the diffences and similarities are about the same.
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