Truck Maker Discovers Chinese Knockoff Company; Helps It Come Up With Its Own Design

from the well-there's-a-different-strategy dept

We’ve seen different companies respond in different and creative ways to companies making knockoffs in the past. One of my favorites was the South African clothing firm that created an entire (secret) knockoff line of clothes to “compete” with unauthorized knockoffs. However Sebastian Brannstrom points us to a really surprising story out of Sweden. While the linked article mostly complains about knockoffs and talks about the need for greater “patent” protections, at the end there’s the fascinating story of truckmaker Scania (Google translation of the original Swedish) and how it responded to the discovery of a Chinese firm making knockoff trucks. Rather than freak out, it actually reached out to the firm, and helped them design different trucks.

The company admits that it knew that a lawsuit would be pointless, and figured it was worth a shot to try a different approach:

“We told them that we welcome competition but we think you should invest in a unique identity towards your customers”

Scania even gave them design tips.

“We gave them sketch-like ideas on the lines of the cab that you can do instead.

They later came back with a sketch of what they had thought about.

“We thought it was still too much like us. Then they did the job and came back again. It was a very friendly and constructive discussion. They respected what we said and made sure that they have not crossed the border again. Their next series will not be like Scania, “said Mr Harborn.

Now there’s a strategy you don’t see every day…

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Companies: scania

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Comments on “Truck Maker Discovers Chinese Knockoff Company; Helps It Come Up With Its Own Design”

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Designerfx (profile) says:


It’s your exact comment that represents the kind of people who would never do this.

If it wasn’t for people like that, who basically represent capitalism, we wouldn’t have issues with IP in the first place. People need to get beyond “I’m being screwed” and look at “how can I actually benefit from this?”. Those who don’t have just as long a list as those that do.

Hiiragi Kagami (profile) says:

Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

Scania over-reacted in this, despite being helpful. Their designs aren’t any different than other European trucks. Telling this company to change their designs would be similar to Peterbilt telling Kenworth to “knock it off. Here, make this.” and that’s not going to happen.

Trucks are working toward a more aerodynamic design so it’s not going to be surprising to see many pick up on the ideas, like curved fenders, air dams higher than the trailer, and a lower cab profile, just to name a few things I’ve seen done.

asymptote (profile) says:

Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

Slightly beside the point about Peterbilt telling Kenworth to “knock it off…”, note that both companies, along with DAF, belong to PACCAR. Unless I misunderstand your point, perhaps a better example would be to say “Peterbilt telling Freightliner…”

I like the story. Slightly off the point again, in the ’50s and ’60s we ridiculed Japanese companies for making inferior copies of our stuff. Then they surpassed us in many ways.

Toward the point, does anybody else feel it would be mutually beneficial to find ways to work with the Chinese?

athe says:

Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

Yet, if you know your trucks, you could look at a Peterbilt and a Kenworth, and know just by looking at it (no logos) which is which.

Of course there are going to be similarities in the designs of these things, that’s pretty much the way it is. Those extra ideas that you mention, those are likely the kind of things Scania is trying to encourage the Chinese company to try for themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:


What you aren’t getting is that there is no benefit. Scania helps the Chinese company design a new truck, in theory putting Scania behind, and the Chinese company keeps the tooling for the knock off truck, and likely sells it on to another Chinese company that will produce it.

So instead of a knock off Scania truck, you end up with a newly designed truck and a Scania knockoff.

Seems like they are helping to make themselves even less relevant.

Insider says:

Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

The Chinese company in question was not merely making a truck based off of the Scania image as your comment would have everyone believe. It was reverse engineering the truck and making nearly IDENTICAL copy. Aside from some regional features needed in the truck for the Chinese-Asian regions, the only real difference was the emblem on the front.

ChronoFish (profile) says:

Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

Isn’t that the point.

Scania is not protecting the concept of “The Truck”. It’s protecting its design. As a non-truck person with a 4-year old who loves trucks and truck books, even I can spot the unique design of Scania.

A carbon-copy of the design (the looks and feel) is precisely what Scania needs to protect. Compare performance to other manufactures and I would venture to guess that that they are not blowing the competition away in HP or gas mileage or emmissions, or power plant options.

If it’s the design they want to protect, and the Chinese manufacture is willing to change without any monetary (or legal) incentive, why are you being so negative about the story?


ChronoFish (profile) says:

If I were a truck manufacture

I would probably consider working with a “copy cat” manufacture, not to dissuade them from using a my design, but to use them as a form of market research. Have the start with my design… change up some of the detailing and see how it impacts sales/selection. If the options change fast enough the “copy” company never gets true traction. Meanwhile I can incorporate the proven design changes back into my main line.


Anonymous Coward says:


You don’t think it hasn’t been done before?

The Chinese market is rife with knock off cars and trucks, exact replicas in appearance to products from outside companies, including a really nice knock off of the bmw X5. It looks great, but drives only so-so (it is a physical replica, not a mechanical one).

When pressured, these companies usually fold up, but the products live on with other companies, under other names.

Do you honestly think a country full of 3 wheeled carts is going to suddenly throw away the tooling for a perfectly functional truck just because someone asked them nicely?

teka (profile) says:


throw away the tooling

You make it sound like making minor changes in the shape of next-year’s truck involved tearing down the factory or replacing all the equipment. Car and truck plants around the world manage to do a changeover, many of them yearly, without somehow selling off “the tooling” to a knockoff company.

So instead of a raging legal fight across borders and continents, with millions in lawyer fees across years, we have a few hours overall of work by a salaried manager (Mr Harborn) and one or two sketch artists, also probably salaried or doing these pieces at no great cost in time or money. This is a success story for everyone but lawyers.

Ryan Diederich says:


No reason to hate on capitalism, its the reason you can read this blog and the reason you arent starving right now. Its also how the world works.

Anyways, capitalism and being nice arent mutually exclusive, you can do both. The truck maker Scania benefitted in many ways by doing this.

For one, they made their name known not for their litigation powers, but by the quality of their managment and owners. If I was looking into buying some trucks, I would consider them above others, for no other reason than they did this. It sets them apart, and gives me a reason that i would want to buy from them rather than another company, which may feel differently about a similar situation.

Anonymous Coward says:


There is a good point, with massive legal cost I’m wondering if it is not cheaper to pay your own design team to create different products and hand over to competitors, if the goal is to make others not copy you, then you can just get all those refused designs and hand over to others.

Now that would scare the bejesus out of American manufacturer’s, as their goal is to extinguish competitors not help them in any way, and that is why other countries try harder to terminate them and feel no remorse in doing so they don’t need them, they are predators and must die, on the other hand Scania may be building something that could help them, since those other manufacturer’s now know that they can count on them for partnerships.

The point being American companies bring nothing to the table and will be treated us such, because they are so annoying.

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

Trouble with "helping"...

… the troubling aspect I have with this article is when Scandia will be hit with a lawsuit because the P.R. Chinese’s product was involved in some sort of accident. Bad enough that OEMs have had to deal with fingers pointed at them when the product was produced by a counterfeiter…

… worse yet if said counterfeiter can claim it was “helped” by the original OEM.

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

Trouble with "helping"...

Comes down to this scenario: Truck driving down road, driver attempts to hit the breaks before hitting some crossing the street, truck hits person. Person sues driver, company, and truck maker. In this case, the shangzhai truck maker can attempt to include Scandia in the lawsuit because “they helped design the truck”.

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