The Sincerest Form of Flattery? Behold the Chinese-Made Youxia X, an Obvious Tesla Model S Copy

It’s often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in the modern business world that sentiment rarely holds true. Instead of being pleased that their designs are being copied by others, it’s usual for large companies to defending the intellectual property of their designs, technology and production processes with iron-clad patents and an army of lawyers eager to pounce with multi-billion dollar lawsuits on anyone who infringes copyright.

Everywhere perhaps but China, where Chinese-owned companies eagerly copy designs and technologies from popular overseas brands for their own use, churning out everything from knockoff iPhones to look-alike designer clothes, computer systems and even automobiles. While the Chinese government is just as keen to stem the sale of counterfeit merchandise on its streets as any other country in the world, it turns a blind eye to products with similar designs but different name to the original.

It might look like a Tesla Model S -- but it isn't.

It might look like a Tesla Model S — but it isn’t.

The more popular and exclusive the original non-Chinese product is, the more likely it is to be copied by a Chinese firm and given a new name — which is how Chinese companies produce knockoff copies of everything from BMW and Mercedes-Benz look-alike sports cars through to copycat Rolls Royce Phantoms and even Hummer H1s.

Now we can add the Tesla Model S to that list too, courtesy of the Youxia X luxury electric sedan.

From a distance, the Youxia X looks almost identical to the world-famous luxury sedan. From the large, blanked-off grille to the sweeping front lights, the Youxia X is clearly built in an attempt to copy Tesla’s design language. Like other Chinese look-alike cars, a few tweaked details — like the shape of the wing mirrors and redesigned tail lights — ensure that Youxia won’t be found guilty of copyright infringement in its native China should Tesla choose to sue.

Inside, there’s more liberal Tesla notes, from the large touch-screen centre console through to the way in which the car’s control system replicates Tesla’s famous software-driven interfaces.

The Youxia X has subtle differences to the Model S.

The Youxia X has subtle differences to the Model S.

Even its supposed smartphone connectivity and open API aims to mimic Tesla functionality, with the Youxia website proudly proclaiming smartphone — and Apple Watch — remote monitoring.

Tesla, like so many other automakers who have had their vehicles copied by Chinese companies, have remained quiet on the subject of this new Chinese vehicle. But given that we’ve yet to see any videos of the vehicle in motion, we’re fairly surly Tesla isn’t at risk of having its reputation besmirched by the Chinese company.

The engineering team for the Youxia X show off its Tesla-like chassis.

The engineering team for the Youxia X show off its Tesla-like chassis.

Dig a little deeper into the specifications of this new plug-in, and it’s obvious the Youxia X isn’t a threat.

For example, on its website — which we note is made to look similar to Tesla’s own website — Youxia proudly proclaims a 2.8 second 0-60 acceleration time for the Youxia X. But unlike the Tesla Model S, which accelerates from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds, the Youxia X accelerates from 0-60 kph in the same time. Or in other words, 0-37 mph in 2.8 seconds.

The more usual 0-100 kph (which is equivalent to 0-62 mph) takes a far longer 5.6 seconds, regardless of the battery pack fitted.

Which brings us nicely to the batteries on offer. Like the original Model S, the Youxia X will debut with a choice of 40 kilowatt-hour, 60 kilowatt-hour or 85 kilowatt-hour battery pack. Ranges are quoted by the company as being 220kilometers, 330 kilometers, and 460 kilometers respectively. That’s equivalent to 137 miles, 205 miles, and 285 miles on the Chinese test cycle — which we’d remind readers is notoriously unreliable for predicting real-world range.

Interestingly, we note the Youxia X comes with the option to produce the simulated engine noise of many sports cars.

Interestingly, we note the Youxia X comes with the option to produce the simulated engine noise of many sports cars.

After some digging around, sources tell us the Youxia X was on display at the recent Shanghai Motor Show, but that at no point during the event did it appear to offer any test-rides. Indeed, during large parts of the event, the stand was reportedly empty of staff and visitors for a large part of the show.

If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, Tesla and its fans should perhaps be happy. But with such a poorly-conceived copy, perhaps another emotion is more appropriate.

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