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GM launchs plagiarism probe on SAIC
( 2003-07-23 09:58) (China Daily)

Global auto giant General Motors (GM) has initiated an investigation into Chinese carmaker Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC) Chery's suspected plagiarism in the latter's development of QQ, a recently-launched mini vehicle model.

Accompanying GM's initial promotion activities for its Chinese-made minicar Chevrolet Spark, the dispute has aroused people's concern about how to maintain a good balance between intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and China's booming auto sector, featuring the entry of quite a few ambitious Chinese auto manufacturers as newcomers.

"We've been paying close attention to this issue and, as a responsible company, we will handle it seriously and carefully," said Daphne Zheng, spokeswoman of GM's China operations.

But she did not reveal when the investigation would be over and whether GM will then file a lawsuit against SAIC Chery, in which GM's Chinese partner SAIC holds a 20 per cent stake.

Following its launch on May 31, QQ was found to be quite similar in appearance and design to the Daewoo Matiz II, the original model based on which the Chevrolet Spark has been manufactured.

To be marketed later this year with an initial 0.8-litre emission version, Spark is produced at SAIC GM Wuling Automotive Co - a three-party joint venture in Liuzhou in Southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The car is expected to help GM strengthen its presence in the domestic mini vehicle market, while exerting pressure on the market's existing models priced between 50,000 yuan to 80,000 yuan (US$6,050-US$9,670).

Some industry analysts suspect that SAIC Chery acquired the needed technical information from Daewoo to develop QQ through a covert technology transfer contract. GM took over Daewoo last November following the South Korean company's bankruptcy.

"We've been doing everything (in this issue) in a legitimate way," said Lu Zhenglin, an official of the market analysis department for SAIC Chery.

"There are so many things about the QQ that are different from Spark, ranging from its engine system to the instrument panel... you can't say we plagiarized by only looking at some resemblance in appearance between the two," said Lu.

SAIC Chery claims that it spent more than a year developing the QQ, in which the company owns up to 24 design patents.

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