Like most manufacturers, BMW is getting ready for the pilgrimage to Shanghai, where the Shanghai Motor Show will open its doors to the press on April 19, and to the public on April 21. Some at BMW go with mixed feelings. There will be some delicate discussions between BMW brass and their Chinese joint venture partner Brilliance. The reason: At Asia’s and possibly the world’s most important auto show, Brilliance will show their A3 SUV. Germany’s Auto Bild calls it “a brazen BMW X1 rip-off, with inspirations from Audi.”
The matter becomes even more touchy as BMW plans to produce the X1 in China with a launch date in 2012. It will be built by BMW’s Chinese joint venture with Brilliance.
Asked what BMW will do about the matter, BMW spokesman Frank Strebe confirms that his company is “familiar with the matter.” His employer already is in talks with Brilliance and is “exploring the next steps.” The heads of BMW and Brilliance are expected to have a serious sit-down in Shanghai. From the sounds of it, BMW is not taking this lightly. The copy is a bit too brazen. Strebe, usually BMW’s point man for the Siebener, has been made the go to person for the Chinese copypaste.
“In the side view, the tracing was especially successful,” writes Auto Bild. “Roof lines, windows and wheel housings look like fresh off the BMW assembly lines.” The dashboard appears to be inspired by Audi. “And we won’t even mention the name,” says the German paper with reference to the Audi A3. This is also being built in China, by Audi’s joint venture with FAW.
BMW had sued Chinese maker Shuanghuan for copying their X5. A court in BMW’s hometown Munich blocked the importation of the copy. In Italy, a court in Milan decided that there was no likelihood of confusion. Hauling a Shuanghuan in front of a judge is one thing. With your own joint venture partner, the matter is a bit different. China already is BMW’s third largest market, after Germany and the U.S.
The talks in Shanghai won’t be easy.