COPY CATS

China’s car companies have no shame copying foreign designs

China’s car companies have no shame copying foreign designs
Image: BYD/Lexus/Quartz
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

If you’re a foreigner who has just landed in China for the first time, you should prepare for an uncanny experience on the roads: the cars will look so familiar… yet something will feel slightly off. There are, of course, lots of cars produced by the companies common in other parts of the world, like Volkswagen, Nissan, or Toyota. But there are also many Chinese-made cars that are, essentially copies of foreign models.

Some copies may only have, say, the front grille or tail-lights of a foreign car. But quite a few are almost identical knock-offs. Use the slider tool below to get a sense of just how good these imitations can be:

There are some signs that the copycat era in China is waning. For example, BYD hired the head of Audi’s design team in 2016 to push forward more original work. The launch of the 2019 BYD Song and BYD Qin Pro, which both have unique designs, show it’s possible and maybe not even that hard. Hopefully other Chinese car companies will copy BYD’s lead.