Illegal? Hispano Suiza Name Used at Geneva Motor Show Without Permission

When is a Hispano-Suiza not a Hispano-Suiza? When the name is used illegally, as may be the case with the supercar concept shown at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show.

Back in March, the Hispano-Suiza name (sans the hyphen) was applied to a new supercar design, built largely upon the Audi R8 5.2 FSI V-10. Along with some unusual bodywork, the car received a supercharger courtesy of German tuner MTM.

Although the finished product caught the ire of historians and the attention of showgoers, it also managed to cross the two firms that legally hold the rights to the original Hispano-Suiza nameplate. After Hispano-Suiza stopped building automobiles in 1938, it focused its efforts on aviation engines, ultimately winding up as part of the French SAFRAN group. The rights to build vehicles badged as Hispano-Suizas is apparently owned by a Spanish firm, known as La Hispano Suiza Fàbrica de Automòviles. Neither firm, however, is amused by the marque’s revival.

In a statement issued earlier this week, La Hispano Suiza Fàbrica de Automòviles noted it had nothing to do with the new car, and was determined to put the kibosh on the vehicle.

“[We regret] the deceptive use and statements made related to its famous name by unauthorized third parties taking advantage of the brand name and reputation,” reads the release. "La Hispano Suiza Fàbrica de Automòviles SA and Safran SA are determined to take appropriate legal actions against such unlawful conduct that infringes their rights and constitutes a practice of unfair competition misleading the public’s and consumer’s opinion intentionally.”

During the car’s launch in Geneva, Erwin Leo Himmel -- a former Volkswagen designer spearheading the Hispano Suiza project -- noted the car’s name doesn’t have a hyphen, and told the New York Times that the new Hispano Suiza brand “is not the legal successor of the historical brand Hispano-Suiza.”

Is that disclaimer -- and the lack of a hyphen -- enough to win a court battle? Time will tell, but we’re more interested in seeing if customers truly feel the need to pony up $950,000 for a tarted-up R8.

Source: La Hispano Suiza Fàbrica de Automòviles, New York Times

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