They're worse than you think.
It was only a matter of time before a Chinese automaker squeezed its way into the highly lucrative American car market. Many have tried and failed, but now that Zotye has announced it'll launch an SUV in the US for 2020, we figured it was time to highlight Chinese-built cars and SUVs that shamelessly copied vehicles (with help from the government) from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Jeep, Bentley, Ferrari, and Porsche.
While some Chinese customers may have been fooled by these blatant design thefts, Westerners are not. So we dug through the archives to find some Chinese vehicles whose designs are the most blatant rip-offs. Before you ask, China passed a law to protect its domestic carmakers by making it nearly impossible for a Western automaker to prove to a Chinese court its patented designs were stolen. So don't expect these ripoffs to stop anytime soon.
Let's begin with the worst of them all. Translated as the 'Eagle Came' (presumably, it sounds better in Chinese), where to begin with this one? Well, the Eagle Came debuted back in 2015 attempting the impossible: fusing a Ferrari with a Porsche. Its headlights and grille are very Ferrari California T-like while the rest of is all Porsche 718 Cayman. Even the badge looks like it was ripped off a Porsche.
Built by Suzhou, the Eagle Came is also all-electric, capable of a 0-62 mph of 4.8 seconds. Top speed, however, is only 75 mph.
Is this just a rebadged Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class convertible? Nope, it's the BYD S8. BYD stands for 'Build Your Dreams,' or, in this case, someone else's. The S8 first premiered in concept form back in 2006 at the Shanghai Motor Show and went into production for 2009. Fortunately, it lasted for just a single model year. That's because only seven examples were sold.
Unlike the Mercedes, the S8 was front-wheel-drive and was powered a 140-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine instead of a V6. It also featured a folding metal roof, just like the Mercedes SLK. Now, here's the ironic bit: BYD not so long ago signed a technical agreement with Mercedes so it's safe to assume that all is forgiven for this blatant ripoff.
This is the BAIC BJ80, a 4WD luxury SUV that looks suspiciously like the iconic G-Class. On the bright side, it costs an awful lot less, starting off at 288,000 yuan, or about $43,000. Launched for 2016, the BJ80 is powered by a choice of turbo diesel inline-fours linked to either a six-speed manual or automatic. At many angles, it's a dead ringer for the G-Class, and yet, there was no lawsuit by Mercedes as far as we know.
Like the original G-Class, the BJ80 was initially developed for the military, in this case, the People's Liberation Army. And just when you thought BAIC couldn't more blatantly take the design of a foreign automaker for its own purposes, it did so again with another SUV. Read on.
The mind reels. This is not a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It's the BAIC BJ90. And it's also a Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. Yes, really. The BJ90 is based on the GL-Class as part of an agreement with Mercedes whose parent company Daimler now has a 12 percent stake in BAIC.
Legally use the platform of one automaker and illegally swipe the design of another? Welcome to China. The BJ90's drivetrain is also all Mercedes. A choice of two engines are offered (sales began earlier this year): a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 with 333 hp and a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 421 hp. Even the seven-speed automatic and 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is Mercedes-sourced. The interior, not at all shockingly, is from Mercedes, too. The three-pointed silver star, however, has been replaced with BAIC's logo on the steering wheel.
Try not to laugh too much, but the Hawtai B35 was originally a Porsche Cayenne clone back in 2011. Today, it's a Bentley Bentayga clone, at least up front. Like we said, there is no shame. Underneath its ugly skin (let's face it), is a first generation Hyundai Santa Fe platform. Power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 184 hp or a turbo 1.8-liter with 160 hp. Two gearboxes are on offer: a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic. Okay. We're done here. This one is just too pathetic to keep writing about. Moving on…
Perhaps we spoke too soon regarding pathetic. This is the Geely GE, a literal carbon copy of the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Revealed back in 2010, the Geely GE was initially a concept and later went into production in 2014. Supposedly, production ceased earlier this year. Geely has, to its full credit, greatly improved over the past few years by actually getting involved with the global auto industry. Its financial successes enabled it to purchase Volvo and Lotus, for example.
The GE was proof that it was capable of building a luxury car, though not one of its own design. Look closely and even the "Spirit of Ecstasy" hood ornament has been closely copied. But hey, the GE is far cheaper than the Phantom, costing around $45,000.
The Jinma JMW 2200 tries so hard to be a BMW i3. Just look at its twin-kidney grille and curved body panels. It's absolutely horrible to look at. Sorry about that. But it is all-electric, powered by a lead-acid battery providing energy for its three kWh electric motor. Top speed is said to be – wait for it – only 31 mph. It can barely go 75 miles on a single charge. A full recharge requires about seven hours. Why anyone would buy this for regular road use is beyond us. You'd be better off buying a motorcycle or scooter. But if a Chinese golf course is ever looking for more stylish (to an extent) golf cars, we know exactly what it ought to buy. Photos courtesy of Car News China.
We actually traveled all the way to the Shanghai Auto Show back in 2017 to see this one in-person. The Land Wind X7's claim to fame was how much it resembled the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Jaguar Land Rover even sued Jiangling Motor for its design rip-off, but the Chinese government put a stop to that. It's almost as if Jiangling Motor reverse engineered an Evoque, made a few slight tweaks and called it a day. Funnily enough, JLR builds Evoques in China, its first Chinese-built SUV. Jiangling Motor could've cared less.