We make jokes all the time about the Chinese propensity to clone all manner of automobile, but actually seeing the process makes things a bit more real. You forget there are people behind those cars, working in god-knows-what condition, and exposed to whatever chemicals seem necessary for the job. This is a set of photos published on the Italian site Repubblica chronicling the process of building a Smart FourTwo ripoff. Normally this is where we'd point to the final product and make an amused joke about the new badge engineered Pontiac, but this just seems, kind of sad.
According to the translated text, these folks toil away for 12 hours a day in unheated factories with no personal protective equipment, lax regulations and questionable usage of child labor. They live in mass housing within the factory and don't get a respectable wage. Oh yeah, "Ha ha ha, Chinese knockoffs" we say, but when you look at the conditions and the work, it's not really that funny any more. Its a fascinating peek into the world of low cost labor, but we wonder if the race to the bottom is really worth the cost.