Plagiarism would seem to be rife in China where, as I understand it, there is no requirement to observe international copyright laws. Having already copied the Visa, a number of Chinese companies have cloned the ZX.
In April 2002 a Shanghai motorcycle manufacturer called JM Star Group announced three cars based on the ZX platform - JM Star Meilu JJ 7130, JJ 7131 and JJ 7132. The 7132 three volume car has a tail that imitates that of Mercedes-Benz. The company owner, Mr. Li Shutong is the brother of Mr. Li Shufu, president of Geely Group . Li Shutong is not licensed to produce motor cars so he uses the licence issued to a company called Jiangbei of Jilin city who produce a range of cars called Meilu (or Beautiful Deer in English).
The cars were designed by a Shanghai design company named TJ Innova. The engine proposed was a 1 342cm3 capacity Chinese Tianjin-Toyota 8A-FE (1342 cc).
Planned production in the Jiangbei Works in Jilin never took place.
Shanghai Maple (Huapu)
In 2003, the JM Star was sold to the Geely Group. Geely redesigned the three volume model, but left the two-volume models unchanged.
Production was transferred to the JM Star facility in Shanghai. The new name of the company is Shanghai Maple (Huapu).
The JJ 7130 was renamed Maple Whirlwind SXE 7130 (Chinese: Huapu Biaofeng), the car also has a new logo.
Later in 2003 the JJ 7131 successor was introduced: named Maple M203.
The new three volume model followed in 2004 and was named Maple Marindo M303.
The Biaofeng was redesignated SMA 7130/ SMA 7131 while the M203 became SMA 7150 and the M 303 SMA 7151.
The engines were replaced by Geely units: the MR 479Q (which is in fact a copy of the Tianjin-Toyota) 1 342 cm3 powered the Biaofeng while the M203 and the M303 were fitted with the MR 479QA of 1 498 cm3 displacement.
In 2005 the range was renamed: in Chinese Haiyu (Marindo), Haixun (Hisoon) and Haishang (Hysool). Also new front ends were shown, one of which is a copy of the current Audi. The M 203 was replaced by the M 205 and there is a M 206 sports version prototype.
The M 303 was built on to include the new M 305. A new engine was added: the JL 481Q 1 762 cm3. Hybrid and diesel prototypes were made.The Biaofeng was taken out of production.
The 2006 range comprises:
Marindo (Haiyu) 205 two-volume,1 342 cm3 MR 479Q, export name C31;
Hisoon (Haixu) 205 two volume, 1 498 cm3 MR 479QA in sports colors, no export name;
Marindo (Haiyu) 303 three volume, 1 498 cm3 MR 479QA, export name C51;
Hysoul (Haishang) 305 = three volume, Audi nose, 1 762 cm3 JL 481Q, export name C81.
To add to the twists and turns of this story, there are also Chinese copies of the copies! A copy of the Biaofeng was introduced by the Jiangnan company of Xiangtan city at the end of 2004. Jiangnan has had a long relationship with Geely and planned to produce Geely cars in 2002, but it never worked out. Then it developed cars of its own, including the Jiangnan Chuanqi (Saga) JNJ 7150. The engine is the MR 479 QA.
There is a fourth company producing a car based on the ZX Fukang-platform - another motorcycle manufacturer - the Lifan company of Chongqing city. The Lifan is designed by TJ Innova on a 2 540 mm wheelbase platform. The Lifan 520 is fitted with a BMW Tritec engine and was introduced in 2005.
It must be very frustrating for the company to have its designs stolen. But plus ça change, plus c'est la même chôse - another (French) automobile company was not averse to plagiarism in the nineteen sixties... And then there was a Romanian company that was fond of plagiarism too. Perhaps it is because their designs are so good that people want to copy them...
PSA maintained a dignified silence when I asked them about these cars.
However, the following article dated November 2005 lifted from China Automotive Information Net indicates that PSA is not ignoring the issue.
DONGFENG Peugeot Citroen Automobile Co Ltd has filed a lawsuit against Shanghai Maple Automobile Co Ltd for infringing its patents.
The Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court has accepted the case, said a prosecutor named Li from the court. But he refused to give further details before the hearing starts.
Wuhan-based Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen Automobile, a joint venture formed by Dongfeng Automobile Co Ltd and PSA Peugeot Citroen Group, the second-largest automaker in Europe, alleged that Shanghai Maple used Citroen’s core chassis technology in producing a series of its models, according to anonymous sources close to the case.
Shanghai Maple is one of the leading domestic automakers that makes cars from its own designs.
"We have already registered the patent of the special chassis technology with the world intellectual property rights organization," said Chen Hongshen, a public relations official from Dongfeng Citroen Automobile Co Ltd, a subsidiary of DPCA.
Mao Yongchen, a public relations official from Shanghai Maple, the subsidiary of Geely Automobile Co Ltd, claimed in a telephone interview yesterday the firm hasn’t received any documents from DPCA.
This latest case is not an isolated as GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Company, a unit of General Motors, the world’s largest automaker, filed a lawsuit against Chery in May this year.
GM Daewoo alleged Chery QQ copied its Spark sedans and demanded 80 million yuan (US$9.86 million) as compensation for patent infringement.
Previous media reports said Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co Ltd and Toyota Automobile Co Ltd also sued Hebei Shuanghuan Automobile and Geely Automobile Co Ltd for similar reasons.
"It’s inevitable for domestic automakers to imitate other advanced technology, no matter from other domestic companies or foreign firms," Zhang Zhenzhi, deputy engineer from China Automotive Technology& Research Center, said. "But in the future, we would be able to better our designs after getting more experience on developing our own autos."
More domestic automakers are being encouraged to focus on self-developed cars in the next five years in a move to increase their competence on the world market.