China should play by the rules
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
There was a hue and cry last week about the launch of a Chinese vehicle that is, essentially, a rip-off of a Ford F-150 pickup.
The F-150, part of the U.S. best-selling F-series line of pickups, is the latest victim of Chinese copycats -- but certainly not the first. There was a famous case of a Rolls-Royce rip-off a few years ago, and there have been others.
It is almost impossible to govern the protection of global brands within China so the only recourse is to make sure that a knockoff doesn't get shipped to other markets where it can steal sales from the real thing.
For years, the automobile industry has been fighting the exportation of knockoff brands of well-known automotive parts companies.
The industry has had some success, but it's a never-ending battle against copyright and brand infringement.
In two months, at the Beijing auto show, I am sure we will see several examples of copycat vehicles like the F-150 knockoff.
It is amazing that the Chinese car industry seems to be sorely lacking in creativity or originality.
As someone who is closely associated with the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, with its world-renowned school of automotive design, I'm sure that the Chinese would be delighted to have CCS open a design school in China. I am sure that the Chinese have approached other schools with the same offer.
If China wants to become a serious player in the global marketplace, its government is going to have to respect intellectual-property laws.
Today those laws are simply flouted with extremely rare penalties for those who expropriate someone else's designs.
There should be better enforcement of the global intellectual-property rules and stiffer penalties for companies in China that break those rules.
Creativity is a vital part of every successful vehicle manufacturer. Yet the global governing bodies seem either unable or unwilling to enforce basic rules of conduct when they deal with the Chinese.
It's time to discourage the ripping off of successful global designs of vehicles.
If China wants to be a global player, it should play by the rules.
You can reach Keith Crain at firstname.lastname@example.org.