Last month, long before the Shanghai Motor Show kicked off, we brought you a story on the Geely GE, a Rolls Royce Phantom rip off (or homage, if you prefer) which certainly made us smile. It was so blatant, but at the same time to crass, we couldn’t help but laugh. Particularly at the one-seater, throne-like configuration in the back.
But the showing of the Geely GE at Shanghai last weeks seems to have not amused Rolls Royce, who are considering their options, but are considering legal action against Geely (they wouldn’t be the first to go this route).It’s pretty clear that Rolls Royce would have a good case on intellectual property grounds, and on the grounds that the Geely would demean and diminish the RR brand.
But, according to Geely, the Geely GE is not a RR Phantom copy. Spokesperson for Geely, Zhang Xiaoshu told AFP:
“they are actually different…. people may feel they are the same at the first glance, but the details are certainly different.”
Which is clearly garbage. But they are separated by a country mile in terms of quality and price. Frankly, this sort of thing is an irritation for car makers in Europe rather than a major problem. And as long as the Chinese courts and Government takes such a cavalier attitude to plagiarism, it is not worth the grief, and cost, of legal action.
But long-term the Chinese are shooting themselves in the foot. Yes, they have a huge home market. And they can sell their cheap rip-offs of Western products in their home market with relative impunity. But if they want to make real money and be credible in the West they will have to clean up their act. You may be able to flog snide Chinese designer knock-offs in Europe and get away with (as long as your customers don’t look at what they’re buying properly).
But it’s a bit harder with a great big car.