China Watch : Yema revises Maestro into Audi

Ash Sutcliffe

This is a long story, so we are going to make it as short as possible. Back when MG Rover was a solvent company it was looking to offload as much of its IPR without selling its core models’ designs, going through its portfolio it was found that it had the Austin Maestro platform.

MGR figured it could get a good deal for that platform in the Far East or Eastern Europe, and they were right when Etsong, a Qingdao based tobacco company snapped it up in 1998. Etsong had seen other regional car manufacturers develop in nearby cities, Etsong clearly thought it was onto a winner when it produced the Maestro in Qingdao.

The trouble was, it produced the Maestro in 2000 and there were much better cars on the market by then. Etsong quickly but quietly stopped making cars and sold the whole kit over to FAW which were more than happy to use the factory to continue building Maestros… until it sold the tooling and IPR to Sichuan Yema a couple of years ago. Sichuan Yema rolled out its own Maestro based cars, although they looked far too close to the last generation Forrester for comfort.

Now Yema is planning to use the same Maestro platform to produce an Audi A4 Avant Wagon clone according to these pictures, the Chinese media was keen to point out that the tiny firewall between the dashboard and the engine compartment is likely to help it fail a crash test in spectacular fashion. The engine power is currently unknown but it does not look to be a Mitsubishi engine, in fact it looks closer to being a Geely engine but this is unlikely.

[Source: China Car Times]

Keith Adams


  1. I love the fact that the front numberplate isn’t even on straight……however, we may all be driving Chinese cars in 20 yrs time, so maybe I shouldn’t pour scorn on them……

  2. Audi copied our Rover 75 V8 grille and now China copies the cars. Audi started it and now they are the victim. Ha!

  3. I’m surprised the alarm bells haven’t rung yet in Inglestadt as the order book for wings, doors, grilles and wheels suddenly jumps for China…


    Looks like SMA did a good job turning the ZX into a Cadillac SLS clone…

  4. Isildore – I don’t think they order Audi parts, they just make their own look-a-likes that fit the car. So you couldn’t for example fit the door from one of these onto an Audi.

    I expect we’ll see a copyright case being brought by VAG before long and the only outcome will be a ban on the import of these into the EU, but let’s face it they’re never going to be imported anyway.

  5. A friend of mine bought a chinese motocycle, the proud owner pulled up to the traffic lights and the engine mount bolts snapped and the engine bolted forward and snapped the drive chain. He was left with a terrible bill, they wont honour the warranty, what a mess, what a farce and what a con…beware you have been warned.If our car companys pull stunts inagine what the chinese will do, so simon hodgetts i dont think we will be buying the chinese cars in 20 years time, you cannot put a price on safty. Oh and this is not the only chinese motorcycle that has had incidents that i know of. Shame because the cars do look cool….

  6. Oh, that’s brilliant!

    Audi blatantly plagiarised the EK Civic for the A3 and now it’s done even more so to them too.

    Probably as crashworthy as a paper lantern, but at least it looks better than Ian Beech’s version.

  7. Mark Powell: Those Chinese motorbikes are imported as CKD kits, for DIY assembly in the UK; sellers are assembling and registering them here, but there is absolutely no consistency in the quality of workmanship – and the bikes are naturally being targeted to undercut used “brand-name” 125s generally. Those same bikes mass produced in China in tens of thousands, if not hundreds, provide essential transport.

    There’s a chasm between a DIY-made kit being bought cheap and sold cheap for a quick profit, and a dealer network reselling complete manufactured and type-approved cars.

    How long has the 6 been on sale. Six months now? And indeed, the remaining TF models. Where’s our media coverage of catastrophic failures of these new hope MGs? Don’t you think the motoring press would be all over any inherent failings or weaknesses on the MG6?

    China is going to do what Japan did in the 1960s and 70s. By 2025, the global car industry is going to look very, very different indeed, and the first signs are there – look at Hyundai’s movements upmarket and think about where BMW were in their domestic and export markets at the end of the 1960s; likewise Audi – and that was in an era of protectionism.

  8. @mark powell – the way the economy is going, the only countries able to afford to produce & buy cars will be India and China!! 😀

  9. I thought the square grille first appeared on the Audi A6 before the R75 V8? This Yema/Audi A4 copy seems to be an equivalent of a counterfeit Rolex or Gucci watch – superficially similar, but most inferior at the technology level.

    Obviously we wont see this car on UK shores or Europe for that matter, so better off buying a SEAT Exeo.

  10. “Those Chinese motorbikes are imported as CKD kits, for DIY assembly in the UK; sellers are assembling and registering them here, but there is absolutely no consistency in the quality of workmanship – and the bikes are naturally being targeted to undercut used “brand-name” 125s generally. Those same bikes mass produced in China in tens of thousands, if not hundreds, provide essential transport.”

    I’d agree, like the UK in the 30’s, China uses a lot of motorbikes as family transport. Only difference is there are 4 Billion Chinese to buy them!
    The trouble with CKD kits, is they can just be thrown together by any numpty, rather than torquing fasteners up properly, they can just get done up over tight and then they fail at a later date. They are very cheap and to a certain extent you get what you pay for.
    It’s much like Skoda and almost any Japanese marque, they were joked about when they came out as being rubbish, because they were cheap. The same can be said for Kia, who started out building old Mazda’s.
    Fact is the chinese can build anything as good as anyone else, they’re not stupid. Just look at how much branded stuff has ‘Made in China’ written on it. The trouble is they can’t build high end premium products and sell them for a premium price with say a Geely or SAIC badge on them, people just wouldn’t pay. So they churn stuff out as cheaply as possible to undercut everyone else, or just make fakes.
    Much like most early Post-war Japanese production, Nissan started out making licence built Austin’s (much like Saic build licence built VW’s). Other Japanese companies Anglicised their names to make them appear to be a western company, Kwanon, Nippon Kōgaku, Matsushita. More commonly known as Canon, Nikon, Panasonic. Camera’s are a good example, there was a time when people laughed at Japanese cameras, now the big 4 manufacturers are all Japanese. I can only think of 3 non-Japanese camera companies, 1 of those no longer makes cameras only lenses and 2 have tied up with Japanese manufacturers in order to survive. I think we’ll see something similar in the car industry before the decade is out.

  11. About the “tiny firewall” of Maestro platform, let me say that I had a crash in my Maestro HLS back in ’91. I crushed it in a ditch hitting at about 50 mph. I bounced back on the road and then back in the ditch with the rear. I escape from the car unhurted, windscreen perfect, doors opened with no problem, as the hatch. The roof showed no signs. In a few words the passenger compartment was perfect.
    Maestro was a safe car, believe me.

  12. I’m tempted to bite on the camera company thing, but actually, there’s little point.

    We haven’t lost that many, a handful of brands have changed hands, but there are many, many non-Japanese camera firms. And in the ’80s and ’90s, people were buying Chinese-made cameras made under licence, under Japanese brands (Minolta’s X-300 was eventually a Chinese Seagull licence-built variant, for example). The reason for so many Japanese camera firms being in existence is the sheer innovation behind those systems; Honeywell “invented” autofocus (they invented several types), but it’s the Konica C35 AF that brought it to market.

    Like the car industry, the camera industry is far, far greater than the single car, single brand we perceive.

  13. …..Which is why the MG6 design/production split makes perfect sense.Design and engineer to a high standard in Birmingham,Manufacture to good quality/low cost in China, then final assembly and quality assurance in Birmingham.

    I’m biased though, went for a long test drive at the factory last week, and ended up wanting one.

  14. At Gaetano Zagra; You’re right, the ‘tiny firewall’ is not a danger as such. Maestro chassis legs are where the strength lies, and they are increadibly tough. BL wanted to illiminate ankle and legs injuries, so the bottom of the chassis was tough and progressively deformable.

  15. them chinese are very inventive and enterprising,like the a team can make a tank out of a johnny bag and a box of matches

  16. Anyone else notice the three rings that make up the front badge? two are blacked out and not noticeable from a distance. I know it’s a bit off topic but would love to see a feature on Chinese copies along side their Western “inspirations”.

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