Back from the '06 auto show in Beijing, some industry observers are baffled by how much new Chinese cars look like existing products elsewhere in the world.
The show provided a platform for Chinese manufacturers to showcase their latest models, and one of the most striking aspects of their rapidly expanding product portfolios is the near-identical visual relationship to products from the United States, Europe and the rest of Asia.
“Knowing exactly what vehicle you're looking at can be very confusing,” says Nick Margetts, general manager of JATO Dynamics, an automotive information firm. “The ability of the Chinese to replicate products is well known, and they have applied similar skills to automotive design.”
To critics who see it as a rip-off of questionable legality, he says: “It's important to understand that they consider this to be the sincerest form of flattery.”
But under the sheet metal, the look-alikes bear no relationship to the originals, and retail for much less. In a country where many consumers are realizing a dream of owning their first car, the priority is to produce vehicles that look good but cost little, Margetts says.