But are they doing it legally?
We've lost count of all the Chinese copycat cars that have been build in the last few years. As recently as February this year, China was spotted building illegal copies of famous supercars. Some of these copycats were taken to court, like in the case of the replica Land Rover Evoque, where the British carmaker emerged victorious.
Recently, a Chinese patent for an SUV called the Hengtian L4600 was posted on the internet. Anyone who looks at the images included in the patent may instantly notice a glaringly obvious fact - it looks exactly like a Toyota Land Cruiser.
The L4600 was supposedly set to enter the Chinese market soon after pre-production photos of the SUV first emerged in 2016, though back then it was known as the Hengtian Yueli. It is currently unknown why the SUV was delayed for so long - we'd guess for legal reasons - but it should be available to purchase in the next few months. Aside from looking almost identical to the Toyota, the L4600 shares other elements in common with the Land Cruiser.
From the bottom side image, we can see double-wishbone independent suspension in the front and a four-link suspension with coil springs in the rear, which is the same layout found under the Land Cruiser. It has not been confirmed if the L4600 uses the Land Cruiser as a base but the dimensions such as length, width, height, and wheelbase will be slightly different than the Toyota. The overall shape and various other details look nearly identical to the Land Cruiser but at least Hengtian changed out the grille and headlights to make the L4600 look slightly unique.
Under the hood, the Hengtian will have a V8 engine, but not one from Toyota. It will instead use a Chinese-built 4.6-liter gasoline engine built by a company called Futai Power. The engine is set to produce just 286 horsepower (low numbers for a V8) going out to an automatic transmission with an unspecified number of gears. Other rumored engines include smaller 3.0- and 4.0-liter units mated to a manual transmission as well as a 2.4-liter Mitsubishi-sourced mill. Based on the engine choices, we expect the L4600 to be much less expensive than a real Land Cruiser.
China used to build the Land Cruiser in a FAW-Toyota joint factory from 2008 to 2016 before local assembly was killed off due to low demand and moved back to Japan. Hengtian Automobile was founded back in 2011 and now has the capacity to build 100,000 units per year. The company has only built trucks up until now and this will be its first production passenger car.