Tesla is gonna be pissed with this one!
Mimicry may be the sincerest form of flattery but when you have spent millions developing a ‘LOOK’, style and proprietary formulations, etc. for your product, it can be galling to see wholescale copies flooding the market and taking advantage of your expensive development work. Once again, the lax attitude to copyright protection is raising its head in China, with a slew of vehicles that are obviously inspired by some more well-known international offerings.
Is it a Tesla or is it a Tesla? No, it is a car inspired by KITT from Knight Rider, that cheesy 1980’s TV show staring David Hasselhoff. Apparently the name Youxia X (or 霹雳游侠) is what the show was called in China. Priced at between US$32K and US$48K, depending on which battery configuration you want, this will clearly put a dent in Tesla’s marketing strategy in China.
It has taken a lot of very clever people to perfect the Tesla S and there have been a few mishaps along the way, not least the various incidents when Tesla’s caught fire, so of course build quality of the Youxia X will be one of the big unknowns. Certainly the performance specs of the Youxia do not match those of the Tesla, but I guess these are early days and in time they may get there.
Historically, companies in the Chinese mainland have had little time for copyright laws and have copied anything they wanted. Laws are in place to stop wanton plagiarism but they are very hard to enforce, as Jaguar Land Rover have found out when they tried to stop the LANDWIND X7, which even has a similar name to LANDROVER.
JLR is in the midst of a major and very successful sales push in China. To be able to compete effectively, JLR has plans to construct a US$1.8 billion factory to build the Range Rover Evoque crossover. With that kind of commitment, the bosses at JLR were understandably unhappy when the the Landwind X7, a Chinese Xerox copy of the Evoque, was unveiled last year at the Guangzhou Auto Show.
In a statement to the Wall Street Journal last November, JLR, which is of course owned by India’s TATA Group, made it clear that once an investigation is complete, the company will “take whatever steps are appropriate to protect its intellectual property.”
Unfortunately, JLR believes China’s intellectual property laws won’t be able to provide the company with sufficient legal recourse.
“There are no laws to protect us, so we have to take it as it is,” CEO Ralf Speth told reporters. “In Europe, we can be protected against this kind of copy-paste in the design language, in the features but also the technology. You can’t be protected in China.”
Regardless of the lax copyright laws in China, there are still queues of companies ready to invest in the market there, particularly in the auto sector, as a matter of simple global economics. China is currently the biggest car market in the world and if you want to be a serious global car company, you have to have significant sales in that territory, so most auto makers will continue to put up with the flagrant copyright infringements in the market to ensure that they are not left behind.