Another week, another knock-off from China. Or is it?
You might have seen this week’s reveal of the Youxia Ranger X (pictured above, top), an all-electric luxury sports sedan that appeared like a bolt from the blue and subsequently sent the web into a frenzy comparing its looks to the conceptually similar Tesla Model S (pictured above, bottom).
Many might be thinking that while Tesla might have shared its engineering patents, it didn’t give up its damned design papers!
“Copycat!” “Call the lawyers!” “Knock-off!” All well-worn phrases trotted out in well-worn stories about well-worn subjects.
Well, we should think twice before we wear that sort of guff.
You could almost feel the undertone, a not-so-subtle current of “where do these chaps get off, copying us like they do?”. And here’s where we should all step back on our heels and have a think.
Sure we’ve seen this sort of thing happen on many occasions before. We know that a number of Chinese brands have been, shall we say, brazen in their imitation of established designs before.
But is this really another Land Wind X7/Range Rover Evoque situation (pictured above), where a Chinese domestic brand allegedly flouts intellectual property on design simply because it can?
The Youxia’s frontal design — dominated by the rounded hexagonal black plastic ‘grille’ with an embedded logo uncannily similar to Tesla’s — certainly cuts uncomfortably close to Tesla’s Silicon Valley superstar.
As does the giant iPad-like display inside the cabin, though we welcome the apparent integration of a more mechanical rotary dial.
We’d argue that the side and rear profiles on the Youxia are suitably different, however — with the notable exception of those door handles.
And if a brand is taking ideas from multiple sources, can it be accused of simply copying one? Isn’t that just the easy thing to do?
Herein lies the point. Do we condone imitation? No. But are people really stopping to think before they write, either? Youxia has borrowed liberally, which isn’t great. But perhaps some out there protest too much.
Why are we all so quick to cast aspersions on Chinese design as if by rote? Who in their right mind could see this car and say it’s a line-for-line imitation of the Tesla? Beyond that, do more familiar brands not take inspiration from one another all the time too?
Of course they do. Sure, nobody ripped off Chris Bangle’s BMW 7 Series (above), but iterations of that bootline appeared elsewhere in no time. Does Audi own the right to a shield grille? A bunch of brands that have since adopted the concept must certainly hope not.
It’s also true that modern design has a number of homogenising factors. Reducing drag and keeping pedestrians safer all draw basic body shapes closer together. Commonality in the finer details is inevitable.
Really, do the Chinese have a monopoly on being raw copycats? Maybe, in the case of the Land Wind and others. But are they also occasionally unfairly maligned? In the case of the Youxia Ranger X, I’d suggest yes.
We’re seeing the Chinese market mature before our eyes — the growing middle-class and their expectations, all things we’ve heard before — and the steady investment in familiar names from the west (think Volvo). Perhaps a little credit is due.
The Ranger X is certainly one of the more eye-catching designs to come from a brand based in the world’s other geopolitical superpower. It may be a grab-bag of ideas incorporated together, but it’s not just a cloned Tesla.
With electric motors totalling 270kW/441Nm and a maximum range in its top-tune of almost 460km, it promises to be a pretty slick thing to drive too. Its claimed 100km/h time is 5.6 seconds…. exactly double that of the Tesla in its new ‘Ludicrous’ mode.
Let’s be glad for the competition.
The simple fact is that China remains an ‘other’, and as such is an easy target for ire. We’re too quick to draw parallels, forgetting that we all ultimately follow the same path.