By on May 21, 2009

In March 2008, China’s Shuanghuan (SH) Auto presented the Noble to the Greek media. The two-door may look like Daimler’s Smart, but there are crucial differences. The three meter long Chinese vehicle can can carry up to four people; Daimler’s mini (not MINI) mobile seats two. The Noble is a front-engined, front wheel-drive car with a unibody structure; the Smart’s engine is underfloor with a rear-biased drivetrain, built around a “Tridion” safety cage. Yes, well, in April 2008, Daimler’s crack legal team moved quickly to prevent import and sales of the [alleged] Chinese Smart clone. This week, a judge struck down Daimler’s case.

“Common sense prevailed” according to the Judge’s final ruling. “The impression the Noble makes on a third and informed party by its visual appearance is different to the one that is made to the same person by the Smart . . . It is commonly accepted that the decision over buying a new car cannot be based only on the exterior characteristics but many other technical specifications such as the power of the engine, fuel consumption, trim specification, retail price and dealers’ network.”

The ruling states that the latter party’s doings “cannot possibly misguide the public” as the German company claimed in its legal request. The judge noted the salient fact that “the plaintiff is no longer selling the specific generation of the Smart which claims to have been copied, but a different vehicle, with much different characteristics.”

The judge also accepted in whole the defendant’s argument that cars of the same segment cannot avoid a certain level of resemblance due to technical restrictions, similar purposes and goals, especially when it comes to such small cars that present a challenge to design.

The ruling concludes that “there is no competition between the two companies.” [That would be Daimler A.G. and the Noble's Greek importer, vs. (or not) Dealmar S.A. and its subsidiary China Motors Hellas.]

[Daimler has also taken the Italian importer to court over the same issue. The Greek ruling came first. The Noble's Italian importer has now joined forces with the Greek importer. They've filed suit against Daimler seeking damages for keeping Noble off the market for so long.] 

Thanks to this ruling, SH Auto can now sell its cars throughout EU at prices as low as half the price of Daimler’s Smart. It could also unleash the long-predicted wave of Chinese automotive exports into the Eurozone.

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16 Comments on “Greek Court Clears Chinese Smart Clone...”


  • avatar
    commando1

    Never saw Chevy suing Buick, Olds, and Pontiac for their clones…

  • avatar
    menno

    Wow, just wow.

    Look for clones all over Eurozone, now. All from China.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    IMHO front looks better then the original ‘stupid’.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    If the only thing about this car is that it looks like a Smart, then how can it be considered a clone? If simular looks could start a lawsuit, then Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc. would have been suing each other for the last 20 – 30 years.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    From superficially reading this article, and only this article, it would appear that the judge made the right decision.

    Similarity in look is not the same as cloning. The technical specifications – FWD vs RWD 2 seater vs 4 seater are different.

    As noted though, the bigger issue is that the gates of Europe have been opened to the barbarians mandarins. Is this a 21st century remake of the invasion of Ghengis Khan?

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Sorry, but Daimler knew the reasons they engineered the Smart as they did. Their failure to market the car, based on these superior designs, is the problem. Buyers may have based it on visual gimmick, but they also knew that the Smart was a better car, justifying the cost.

    Look – they got competition now. It is time for Daimler to tell buys reasons beyond it’s appearance why they should be buying the Smart over the Nobel.

  • avatar
    tom

    The problem I see is this:

    Even though it only looks like a Smart and hence is not a clone, it’s enough to misguide the average person on the street. So if this car turns out to be a dud, some people might object to a Smart for the wrong reasons which in return could hurt Daimler…

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Look to the IP (meant here as instrument panel, not intellectual property), and you can see how Noble violated DAG IP (meant here as intellectual property, not instrument panel).

    If DAG were smart (meaning here intelligent, not the car), they would buy a few Nobles and a) run EuNCAP tests on them, and b) re-run the original head-to-head E-class-crash tests and publish the results of such smart (meaning here the car, not intelligence) tests.

    Three death-traps stopped-dead in the market due to published crash testing:
    1. Opel Sintra
    2. Landwind
    3. Brillance BS6
    nobile could easily be #4.

  • avatar
    menno

    Good idea, Robert.Walter! Daimler…. go for it!

  • avatar
    jkross22

    So I suppose it’s okay to import fake Rolex’, TAG’s and Raymond Weil’s. After all, it’s only the face of the watch that’s similar, right?

  • avatar

    psst.

    Invest in “buy our car or you’ll die ads, NOW!” You’ll make a killing.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    There we go. All the whiny dbags who thought a car that size shouldn’t cost a penny over $5,000 can put their wallets where their mouths are.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    jkross22 :
    May 21st, 2009 at 9:53 am

    So I suppose it’s okay to import fake Rolex’, TAG’s and Raymond Weil’s. After all, it’s only the face of the watch that’s similar, right?

    The fakes you are talking about also rip off the name. Unless SH is selling their car as a “Smart 4two” or very similair name to the actual car, you are comparing apples to oranges. Only a complete idiot would mistake one of these “Nobles” for a Smart after even a cursory examination.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Could someone please post the link to the crash test?

  • avatar
    Airhen

    I saw a Smart Car on the interstate recently, and I was scared for the driver.

    Oh, yesterday I was a the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (it was community day) and they allowed anyone with a ticket to drive the track. Well after watching 30 or so Corvettes drive around the track, probably 30 or so Smart Cars also went by showing off how environmentally friendly they are.

    PHOTO:
    http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/5299/img6637.jpg

    What was funny was I commented to my friends that I wondered if the owners actually drove them to IMS or trucked them in? On my way out, I saw one that was trucked in! How environmentally friendly is that?! LOL

    PHOTO:
    http://img29.imageshack.us/img29/6227/img6643.jpg

  • avatar

    jkross22 :
    May 21st, 2009 at 9:53 am

    So I suppose it’s okay to import fake Rolex’, TAG’s and Raymond Weil’s. After all, it’s only the face of the watch that’s similar, right?

    Nobody sells fake Rolexes that look similar to the original. They sell fake Rolexes that look absolutely identical.

    -

    If the styling were identical, then IPR is violated. Similarity is not a violation of IPR, otherwise BMW could sue Toyota et al to high heavens for mimicking the Bangle-butt and Hoffmeister kink, and VW would be even more obscenely rich than they are now from royalties for “goatee grilles”.

    Further weakening DAG’s case is the fact that the Toyota iQ has a similar (though not as similar as this) look. If your car is in the same market segment, it’s inevitably going to have a very similar shape.

    Well… of course it’s a Smart clone… but as long as they’re fully au fait with the law, there’s nothing DAG can do about it.

    And RE: the failure of the Smart… wasn’t just the marketing… it was the engineering itself. They went completely out of their way to “reengineer the wheel”, so to speak. If they hadn’t spent such ridiculous sums of money on things that were only of marginal improvement over other cars, the car would have been more realistically priced, and would have represented a better return on investment.


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