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BMW, DaimlerChrysler say 2 new vehicles from China resemble their own

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Germany's BMW AG says a Chinese car maker's SUV is too similar to one of its own.

The Munich-based automaker filed suit in Frankfurt this week against Chinese car maker Shuanghuan Automobile to prohibit it from selling its new model dubbed the CEO. BMW said the sport utility vehicle was a copy of its own X5.

Undaunted, the Chinese company's European importer brought the SUV to the Frankfurt auto show.

``China is here and we are here at the fair,'' said Karl Schloessl, chief executive of China Automobile, which plans to import and sell the car in Europe. He said the car was designed independently.

The spat reflects wider concern among western companies, many of whom want to do business in China's vast markets but also protect their own copyrights.

Shuanghuan maintains that the CEO bears no resemblance to the X5, either in style or price.

The X5's starting price in Europe is 59,000 euros (US$81,560), while the CEO's base model will sell for 25,900 euros ($35,800).

``The issue directly concerning BMW is that there is a Chinese carmaker trying to copy the side and rear view of the previous generation of our X5 model,'' BMW spokesman Wieland Bruch said. He said a close inspection would reveal any differences, but a first impression would not.

BMW is not alone in its concern. Last week, DaimlerChrysler AG said it might take legal action against Shuanghuan Auto because its Noble resembled its Smart Fortwo, a tiny two-seater aimed at buyers in big cities.

``Offering a vehicle so obviously similar to the Smart Fortwo would be a violation of intellectual property,'' DaimlerChrysler said in a statement.

CEO Dieter Zetsche told reporters at the show that having cars that look too similar could be confusing ``to our customers.''

Shuanghuan has said that it does not think its Noble is similar to the fortwo, telling Dow Jones Newswires late last month that it was ``only the media stirring things up.''

The Noble is not on display in Frankfurt during the Sept. 13-23 auto show.

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BMW, DaimlerChrysler say 2 new vehicles from China resemble their own
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