China's Geely says not copying Rolls-Royce
SHANGHAI (AFP) — A Chinese auto company denied Friday its new top-of-the-line car was a copy of a Rolls-Royce, but the world renowned luxury brand said it was keeping its options open about taking legal action.
Geely Automobile, one of China's major independent car makers, launched its GE at this week's Shanghai Auto Show, and the sedan attracted much interest for its resemblance to the iconic Rolls-Royce Phantom limousine.
A Geely spokeswoman admitted Friday that there were some similarities but insisted the GE -- which stands for "Geely Excellence" -- was an original.
"As it were, they are actually different.... people may feel they are the same at the first glance, but the details are certainly different," spokeswoman Zhang Xiaoshu told AFP.
The glossy black GE, still a prototype, comes with some of the Phantom's signature features, including the grille, down-sloping rear deck, and even a badge that looks like the Rolls-Royce Flying Lady mascot.
On its website, Geely also says the GE is "re-inventing the classic", without saying which classic car it is re-inventing.
Rolls-Royce said Friday it would not rule out legal action against Geely.
"We are reviewing all our options for this," Rolls-Royce Asia Pacific corporations manager Hal Serudin told AFP when asked if the company would take any legal action when the GE hit the market.
"Some people have asked us 'are we flattered'," he said, referring to the expression of copying being the sincerest form of flattery.
"We are certainly not flattered by this."
Geely's Zhang said the GE was set to go on sale within three years, probably for about one million yuan (146,400 dollars), which could be up to a sixth less than a Phantom depending on Chinese taxes.
With the relatively low cost of the GE, Serudin said it would likely not be a serious competitor to the Phantom.
"Due to the pricing of the car, they will not be targeting the same segment of customers. Our customers certainly would not be looking at that sort of pricing," he said.
China's fast-growing automakers, such as Geely and Chery Automobile, are keen to expand into the more profitable high-end segment of the industry.
Such ambitions have drawn similar controversies in the past.
In 2007, Shuanghuan Auto based in northern China drew headlines after it launched vehicles that looked similar to DaimlerChrysler's Smart Fortwo and BMW's X5 sports utility.