Chinese Smart Car Copy Outrages DaimlerChrysler
Date posted: 10-17-2006
Print thisPRINT THIS Save thisSAVE THIS
Email thisEMAIL THIS Most PopularMOST POPULAR
SUZHOU, China — When is a Smart car not a Smart Car? When it's a CMEC Electric City Smart.
Don't believe us? Compare the two cars pictured here and decide for yourself. In what surely is the most blatant case of automotive plagiarism yet, Chinese company CMEC has begun production of a new two-seat city car that appears for all the world like DaimlerChrysler offshoot Smart's six-year-old Fortwo. And its appearance has DaimlerChrysler executives hopping mad.
Even the name of the Chinese car is daringly close to that of the original: Electric City Smart. Smart's original two-seater was christened the City Coupe before adopting the name Fortwo in 2004.
Aesthetically, there's not much separating the two cars. Only the door handles, exterior mirrors and fuel tank of the CMEC-produced car display any discernible change from the original Smart design. Dimensionally, it's hard to pick among the two, as each has an overall length of just 98.4 inches. Even the tiniest of details, such as highlights within the sides of the doors and the shape of the rear window, have been unashamedly copied to give the Chinese car an authentic appearance from the outside.
Its questionable construction aside, the biggest difference between the real Smart and the copy produced by CMEC at its plant in Suzhou, China, is the means of propulsion. Rather than run a three-cylinder gasoline or diesel engine like today's Fortwo, the Chinese example uses an electric motor that is capable of pushing the pint-size two-seater along at a top speed of 34 mph. The battery range, according to CMEC, is around 62 miles.
Further differences can be found inside; the CMEC car has a rather low-rent interior compared with Smart's neat French-built original, and with little apparent emphasis on occupant safety features. From the outside, though, you would be hard-pressed to tell the two cars were from two different manufacturers.
And then there's the price! With a projected European price equivalent of U.S. $5,260, the Chinese car will be priced half as high as next year's all-new second-generation Smart Fortwo. That's if CMEC manages to place the car on sale at all. A spokesperson from Smart's headquarters in Böblingen, Germany, says measures have already been taken to ensure the Electric City Smart is removed from sale even in China. For its part, CMEC says the first examples of the Electric City Smart have already reached England and Hungary, where it is planned to go on sale in early 2007.
What this means to you: China has long had a reputation for taking the best of what the Western world has to offer and turning out cheaper copies; here's the latest and best example of it.