As if it weren't troublesome enough that China reaps all the benefits of free trade to sell its products everywhere while enforcing all kind of rules when it comes to imports (did you know, for example, that only 20 foreign films are allowed for release in China each year?) or opening a local business, the country has also established notoriously lax patent and copyright laws.
While not in significantly large numbers, many Chinese companies have targeted the automotive industry creating various knock offs of European and Japanese vehicles. Longtime CoolPictures reader John F.T. from Norway* discovered yet another copy while browsing on a local online marketplace.
This time the victim is the Toyota iQ, which will be sold from this fall as the 2012 Scion iQ in North America. Here's what John told us:
"Just looking through 'Finn.no' the Norwegian website for pretty much everything you can buy, and stumbled across this; a hideous, plastic Toyota/Scion IQ rip-off from, yes you guessed it, China.
I noticed the pictures were obviously not taken in Norway, but China - so I doubt the car is actually here, however I'm interested to contact this 'GM motorsport' to find out more, I don't want one, but it's like a car crash, you can't help but look. Also it's priced at 10,000 Kr (about $18,500) and for Norway that is a bargain, it must be terrible!"
Described as a "solar car", the Chinese knock off is made by a company called "Weifang Guangsheng New Energy Co". We looked them up and it turns out that they are a relatively new firm established in 1996. Their main line of business is solar systems but they have also ventured in the car-making industry.
Here’s a snippet from their "About Page":
"Guangsheng has advanced research and development equipments and abundant technical force. We have great faith in our sustainable development, thanks to our close long-term cooperation with Shandong Academy of Sciences, Shandong University, Peking University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Weifang University and so on.
From now on, we will continue working on the brand reputation of Guangsheng New Energy, by cultivating good professional ethics, attracting talented personnel, and holding onto development concept prioritizing science and technology, as well as encouraging innovations."
Guangsheng's website says that the faux iQ is powered by a miniscule 4kW (about 5.4HP) electric motor that draws energy from a set of batteries. The solar panels on the roof are supposed to provide additional energy improving the car's autonomy by about 25% for a total driving range of 120 to 150km (74 to 93 miles). The company says the car weighs in at around 350kg (771 pounds).
And just Europeans won't feel neglected, Guangsheng also makes the electric-powered A136 that looks awfully familiar with the Lifan 320 in the way it imitates the styling of the MINI. In fact, Guangsheng has no problem stating on its website that the A136 was inspired directly by the MINI Cooper!
By John Halas
Kudos to John F.T. for the find!
(*Our deepest condolences to all of our friends and readers from Norway that were affected by the tragic events of last Friday)