Mercedes Benz Design Chief Isnt Flattered

Design chief of German luxury brand looks askance at Chinese copycats.

Chinese auto manufacturers long have been known for, um, borrowing design themes and engineering concepts from more established Western automakers. All it takes is a stroll through AutoChina 2010 in Beijing to see how blatant some of the vehicles are. I happened upon the shoddily constructed show stand of one such automaker, Huanghai Auto, at AutoChina and was taken aback to see unabashed ripoffs of the Lexus RX crossover, the Chevrolet Colorado pickup, and the Mercedes-Benz M-class. The latter vehicle is known as the Huanghai Auto New Landscape. There's nothing new about this crossover's three-bar grille, though, because it's a poorly rendered version of the one that Mercedes introduced two years ago as a mid-cycle facelift for its M-class.

Later in the day, I ran into Gordon Wagener, global chief of design for Mercedes-Benz, at the Mercedes stand. I thrust the press photo of the New Landscape in front of him and waited for his reaction. "Some Chinese people may take this vehicle as a compliment [to Mercedes], I guess," he said drily, "but I don't."

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