Curbisde Clone: Geely GE Concept – The Phantom of the Off-Brand

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that’s worked its way into the American vernacular. Simply put, it describes the gall it takes to do something unbelievably, jaw-droppingly arrogant and nervy. (The classic example involves a man who kills his parents and then asks the court for mercy because he is an orphan.)

Which brings us to the Geely GE concept. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? As they say, if you’re going to steal, then steal from the best. It is at once sad and infinitely amusing that the Chinese auto industry is notorious for, well, appropriating existing designs from other manufacturers, and to hell with international copyrights.

If it had been produced and sold at a projected price in the neighborhood of $50,000, it still would not have been not the world’s most expensive three-passenger car; that distinction belongs to certain of Mr. McLaren’s offerings. Nevertheless, the GE boasted what must be the most ridiculously over-the-top interior ever produced. Two-thirds automobile and one-third throne room, the rear seat passenger was cossetted in an elevated, leather-covered cocoon of a chair flanked by two cabinets. A glass partition isolated said passenger from the relative penury of the front compartment.

When the GE concept debuted at the 2009 Shanghai Motor Show, its resemblance to the Phantom did not go unnoticed by the press, public, or the good folks at Rolls-Royce, who were not amused and promptly contacted their attorneys. As a result, the GE concept did not see production; however, Geely wasn’t finished with the idea of an outrageous limousine as a halo product.

Fast forward to the Bejing Auto Show, one year later. The newly minted Emgrand division of Geely Motors unveils the Emgrand GE concept. The new styling no longer copied Rolls-Royce, but certainly owed a deep bow to Bentley (Perhaps Emgrand thought VW would be more lax than BMW when it came to enforcing its copyrights).

Actually, the new concept looked like the product of a Rebel Yell-soaked threesome involving a Buick, a Bentley, and an S-Class, and sporting very Cadillac-like badges on the trunk and steering wheel–which is suspiciously Caddy-like as well. Ah, the ripoff is strong with this one.

The weird three-seat setup remained, but a newly available dual-rear seat configuration was on display at Bejing. It boasted an (admittedly beautiful) pair of recliners that look to rival The Perfect Chair for sheer comfort, separated by a center cabinet with burled wood inlay, and–are you ready–airliner-style pop-up side tables. All that’s missing is a drop-down oxygen mask and a Sky Mall catalog.

Oddly, the new incarnation of the unusually large and heavy concept debuted with a plug-in hybrid powertrain featuring a 2.4 liter, four-cylinder engine whose power output, according to Emgrand, was on par with a V8. OK, whatever you say.  One must wonder why Volvo owner Emgrand/Geely didn’t simply appropriate one of that brand’s engines for the GE. As they say, it ain’t easy being green. Or logical.

In the end, the GE did not see production; however, several Emgrand-badged models, including EC7, EC8, and EC9 sedans, and the X7 SUV were produced and sold before the division was folded into Geely in 2014. Since then, no other Rolls-like or Bentleyesque concepts have turned up in Beijing or Shanghai, and presumably Geely’s fascination with the sybaritic has been indulged, at least for now, in Volvo’s luxurious S90 sedan. Still, who’s to say there’s not another ne plus ultra concept on the way? And it’s a safe bet that when the world is finally ready for a pseudo-Tesla or mostly Maybach, China’s carmakers will be first on the scene.