China’s motor industry has had few hang-ups about designing cars that look a hell of a lot like someone else’s cars. While the industry has moved away from that a lot, and has been developing its own distinctive design languages for years, you still sometimes see some comically derivative designs pop up. In this case, it’s one of the most iconic, well-known designs in all of motoring: the Volkswagen Beetle. Great Wall seems to have decided not to wait for VW — it’ll just go ahead and build an EV Beetle of its own.
This lightning bug will be sold by Great Wall’s electric brand, ORA (which also seems to be called Euler?), and looks to be based on the same EV platform as its other retro-looking EV, the fantastically named Good Cat:
The Good Cat is already sort of Porsche-like in the face, so maybe we really shouldn’t be too surprised that Great Wall went Full Beetle.
There have been electric Beetle knockoffs from China before, but those were based on the modern, Golf-in-a-costume take on the Beetle. This version is very clearly based on the original Beetle, and by looking it it, has styling cues that suggest a pre-’68 Beetle inspiration as well.
By the way, it’s worth mentioning that the original Beetle even had a short-lived knockoff around 1954: the Spanish-built Orix 610, which you can see below in all of its shameless glory.
The still-unnamed ORA has a sort of more glamorous, fanciful take on the Beetle, with lots of chrome detailing and some fun exaggerations of old VW design hallmarks. Those include the half-ring steering wheel seen here and the extra chrome streaks in the shot above.
While clearly Beetle-based, it does differ from the iconic Beetle in having four doors instead of two. In profile, the ORA reminds me of some four-door studies VW was doing for the upcoming Super Beetle back around 1970.
The way the Beetle’s proportions were adapted to the four-door design seems remarkably similar between these two designs; I wonder if Great Wall’s designers looked at these aborted VW four-door Bug designs when they were coming up with this.
This new electric not-Beetle will debut at the Shanghai Auto Show on April 19. According to the Chinese site AutoHome, Euler calls the car a “time shuttle,” and is targeting the car at nostalgic women buyers primarily. I guess I’m something of a nostalgic woman, because I’d be into this.
If it is based on the ORA Good Cat mechanicals, we can expect a 143 hp FWD design, with a 47.8 kWh or 59.1 kWh battery pack, which should give it a range of about 499 km, and it could get from 0 to 60 in about four seconds. Those are really very competitive numbers.
The car is almost definitely for the Chinese domestic market only, where V0lkswagen is a very big player. So I’m going to be curious to see how VW reacts to such a blatant cribbing of its core bit of design identity. Volkswagen is partnered with a bewildering array of companies in China, but not Great Wall, so there’s little reason why they would want to just let this go.
Even if VW tries to put a stop to this, I hope it’ll at least make the Germans realise that there’s a market for an EV Beetle — and if VW doesn’t end up making one, someone else just might.