Copycat Corolla?

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.

14 Responses to “Copycat Corolla?”

  1. Hans says:

    But why would a copycat both show the BYD and the Toyota emblem? Don’t copies usually show either the sign of the original (to disguise as the original) or only the one of the fraudulent company (to make the copy less apparent e.g. to customs)?

  2. Hans says:

    Maybe some google for “BYD Toyota” would have helped as well. It seems that has earlier presented a own model which is said to be a corolla look-a-like (so maybe not an real copycat), and from the pictures its exactly the car in your picture. So i would guess that the “Toyota” and “Corolla” emblems were added by the owner, maybe as a joke.

    So it seems that your picture shows nothing new.

  3. says:

    crash in more ways then one, if the engineers drive their own products ;)

  4. Eugene says:

    If you noticed, the emblems on cars in China are usually in Chinese, and this one wasn’t. So, the emblems are most likely pasted there just for fun.

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  6. Ian Farquhar says:

    When I worked for a… uh, major networking company… I spent a lot of time in China. When I got there I was amazed to see a lot of cars which would be considered luxury brands in the US, Europe or Australia. Certainly outside my engineer’s salary, for sure.

    My Chinese colleague laughed, and told me that most of them were knock-offs by various Chinese car manufacturers, and said that you could usually tell by looking under the hood, where a lot less effort was paid to the finish of the bits you can’t see.

    He then added, with some pride, that at least one knock off was said to be better than the original (I probably shouldn’t name the brand), as the Chinese company had gotten the auto-park system to work properly, whereas the original’s didn’t.

    I have no idea if any of this is true. Just relating what I saw and was told. I also heard, during another convo, that cloning of commuter lets (Airbus A320 or smaller) had begun also, but that they’d never leave China.

    I can definitely confirm that I saw cloned high-end routers – not the small stuff but bar-fridge sized units – at one major banking customer I visited up there. The specific model of router is ancient, but is still sold because of it’s legacy networking support (evil mainframe stuff). Even so, the model contained quite a few ASICs, and I do wonder whether the cloning was the result of a HUGE amount of reengineering, or industrial espionage.

  7. Donnie says:

    I had a discussion about such cars last time I was in China with my Japanese colleagues… they said that the big Japanese companies are doing JVs and license agreements with the local manufacturers as a way to capture some revenue from their branding…

  8. Helenus says:

    I recently was told Toyota is currently recalling most vehicles with gas pedal troubles . My father drives a Toyota, can the vehicle be driven before being replaced?

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  14. Butp says:

    Chinese brands are original designs and not copycats. Cars just look similar to other brands.