Lookalikes in great brawl of China
FIAT IS EVALULATING A NUMBER OF OPTIONS ON HOW TO PROCEED
A new court ruling won’t pander to the Panda in a copycat car case, writes NEIL McDONALD
ITALIAN carmaker Fiat has a month to appeal against a court decision against Chinese carmaker Great Wall Motors concerning a copycat car claim.
The Shijiazhuang Intermediate People’s Court has dismissed a patent infringement complaint against Great Wall Motors by Fiat Group Automobiles SpA.
Fiat says the Hong Kong-listed Chinese carmaker Great Wall Motors’ Peri models infringe Fiat’s patent, claiming the GWM Peri is a Fiat Panda lookalike.
The issue between Great Wall and Fiat is a sensitive one for Australian Fiat importer Ateco Automotive Ltd because it plans to start importing Great Wall vehicles late this year.
However, Ateco has no plans to bring in the Fiat Panda, according to spokesman Edward Rowe.
GWM spokeswoman Ann Wild says Great Wall is still finalising the vehicles it will launch here.
She also says the Fiat-GWM legal stoush has been discussed locally but is not considered an issue.
Wild’s public relations company is handling the launch of the Great Wall vehicles, which will start with the SA230 utility. She says her company has been hired because GWM will be a distinct launch for a new manufacturer.
‘‘The stable at Ateco (Citroen, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari) is quite different,’’ she says.
Parked side by side, the 1.3-litre Peri looks surprisingly like the Panda. Great Wall also builds an allelectric Peri. However, Great Wall says the court has concluded, after examining pictures of Fiat’s patented exterior design, that there are significant differences.
The Italian company has been ordered to pay court costs of about $1500.
Fiat communications spokesman Gualberto Ranieri is suitably guarded about any likely response from the Italian giant.
‘‘We acknowledge the Chinese court decision, notwithstanding we point out that it goes (against) a resolution taken on July 15 by a court in Europe on the same issue,’’ Ranieri says.
‘‘Fiat is evaluating a number of options on how to proceed.’’
Ranieri would not comment on whether Fiat SpA has issues with Ateco’s move to import GW vehicles when it imports Fiats as well.
A Turin court last month banned Great Wall from selling its compact Peri in the European Union, saying it too closely resembled the Panda.
Great Wall is preparing for an appeal against the ruling.
Copycat cars have been a problem for other carmakers. Daimler Benz, Honda and General Motors have all been involved in disputes with Chinese carmakers in the past.
Same difference: (left) the Fiat Panda and (right) the GWM Peri the Italians claim is a copy.