The Thursday 5: Best and worst Chinese car knock-offs
Five best/worst Chinese design knock-offs
A five-door Mini? Think you were being original with that one BMW? Sorry, but Lifan beat you to it by several years with the 320 (otherwise brilliantly known as the Lifan Smily in Russia) that was released in 2008.
Shrewdly foreseeing the need for a Mini with more doors, Lifan stuck a crude, half-melted Mini nose on a generic early-90s small Japanese hatch body to create the 320. Who says car design needs to be a long, drawn-out process? Certainly not the designers at Lifan.
Bamin 1020 KHA
Back in the mid-70s the Chinese Army were big fans of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. In fact they liked them so much they decided to build their own.
Bamin State Autoworks produced this brilliant Mercedes-Benz W123 rip off, building it on the same platform as a small truck! If you look closely, you will see that the 1020 KHA is actually a four-door ute. No one ever said you had to stick to the same segment as the car you were ripping off, after all...
DongFeng Crazy Soldier
Several Chinese companies were in the running to buy Hummer from General Motors back when the American company was desperate to get rid of it. Perhaps the sale fell through because they realised that already had an exact copy of it, but with a much, much better name.
The Crazy Soldier (“crazy” apparently meaning “fearless”) is literally an exact copy of a Hummer - in 1988 AM General demonstrated a then-new M998 HMMWV (what would become commonly known as the Hummer) at the Beijing Defence Exhibition and reportedly left it in China after the exhibition. Wonder what happened to it?
This one was so blatant that Rolls-Royce threatened legal action over it. Normally this doesn’t have much effect on Chinese manufacturers, but given that Geely has global aspirations, this time they decided to actually do something about it and have completely redesigned the GE before its launch.
Of course, by “redesigned” we mean “made everything a bit rounder” in order to placate Rolls’ legal watchdogs. Now it just looks like a drastically over-inflated Phantom instead of an exact knock-off of one.
This one managed to upset multiple other car companies when it was released. The CEO was rip-off of a Honda CRV (with Toyota Prado headlights) from the front, a BMW X5 from the rear, the bonnet was pure Mercedes-Benz and even the Shuanghuan badge was a complete copy of the SsangYong badge (no, we are not sure why either...)
BMW sued and the CEO was banned in Germany as a result. But BMW lost the court case in Italy, so the lucky Italians can still buy them...