I saw this last week in China, and (un)fortunately traffic was moving slowly enough that I could snap a decent shot of it.
While Toyota is a household brand name, BYD is not — yet. For the uninitiated, BYD is a Chinese government-backed company that got its start making batteries for cell phones, and has expanded into just about everything, including cars (its strong background in making lithium ion batteries gives it a key part of the hybrid-electric car supply chain). Warren Buffet recently invested a couple hundred million dollars into the company, and everyone is expecting it to be a formidable player in the car market in the coming decades.
So when I saw this, I wasn’t sure if it was a stock Corolla to which a local enthusiast attached a BYD badge, or if it was a BYD copycat of our familiar brand-name Toyota car. Or, by some bizarre twist, perhaps Toyota is now using BYD to OEM their cars in China through a legitimized business relationship. I don’t know which is true, but according to the rumors I heard from people who saw this photo, this is actually a copycat Toyota made using plans purchased on the black market that were stolen from Toyota. Allegedly, someone in China who studies the automobile industry has taken one of these apart and noted that the welds are done by hand. In the original design, the welds were intended to be done by machine. Since the hand-welds are less consistent and of lower quality than the robotic welds, the car no longer has adequate crash safety. There are also other deviations, such as the use of cheap plastic lenses for the headlights. But, I could see that making a copycat Corolla is probably an effective exercise for giving local engineers a crash-course in world-class car manufacture.