The Chinese Gauntlet

The Chinese have dared the wrath of BMW. At the Frankfurt Auto Show which opens Sept. 13, German importer China Automobile is proudly showing the CEO, an SUV which has a striking resemblance to the BMW X5.

Rumors that China Automobile would show the CEO, together with a mini that looked like a Mercedes Smart, triggered the fury last week of BMW and DaimlerChrysler. Both companies insist the Chinese imitations infringe on their intellectual property rights, and that they will pursue legal action. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said a court already ruled in their favor. The Smart-looking Nobel was nowhere to be seen on the stand. China Automobile owner Klaus Schloessl insists the Chinese models built by Shuanghaun do not ressemble the BMW X5 or Smart.

The silhouette is hard to mistake and many features are clearly inspired by the X5. But I climbed into the drivers seat to take a closer look. The fit and finish inside the car is hardly up to snuff. There are only two airbags. And the engine, in case you were wondering, is a model licensed from Mitsubishi. And the price tag — 27,999 Euros ($36,000), is not exactly cheap. Now, the real question is whether Germans will shell out $36,000 for a car that doesn’t drive like a BMW, but just looks like one.

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