BEIJING - A Chinese automaker has stopped production of a minicar that looks like the Smart ForTwo.
Smart parent DaimlerChrysler threatened to sue Shandong Huoyun Electromobile after the German carmaker discovered that the company was marketing a two-person electric car called the City Spirit that looked very similar to the ForTwo.
We have already temporarily suspended manufacturing and selling of the car, said Wang Fei, a Shandong Huoyun executive.
Production of the City Spirit started in August at Shandong Huoyun, which is based in the eastern China coastal province of Shandong.
Shandong Huoyun says it used a toy model Smart car purchased via the Internet to help with the design.
We definitely did not expect our car to resemble the original, said Wang.
He said the company is making changes in the car to avoid lawsuits. The car will be shortened by 200mm. Engineers will also change the doors, rear end and cargo capacity.
DaimlerChrysler China spokesman Trevor Hale said: We are in contact with Shandong Huoyun and they have agreed not to offer a vehicle so obviously similar to the Smart ForTwo, which would represent an infringement of intellectual property.
Shandong Huoyun got into trouble when a manager at a trading company, China National Machinery & Equipment Import and Export, described the model as a Smart.
In an article in the German magazine Autobild, Jerry Chen, international sales manager at China National, was quoted as saying: Our city-center Smart was developed exclusively for Europe.
Chen said his company stopped selling Shandong Huoyun vehicles after receiving a letter from DaimlerChrysler. He declined further comment.
Established in 2001, Shandong Huoyun makes golf carts, electric minicars and all-terrain vehicles.
It is a subsidiary of Qilu Petrochemicals.
Shandong Huoyuns main products have Chinese patents, according to the companys Web site.
The reworked City Spirit will be ready for sale in 2007.
You may e-mail Namrita Chow at [email protected]