Daimler makes Ze Germans crush this Chinese-American clone

In this country, the Wheego LiFe is an all-electric two-seater that's supposed to be cute despite a 100-mile range and a $33,000 price tag. In Germany, it's a rolling Chinese-built affront to Daimler's intellectual property. Who needs chopsticks when you have a forklift?

Wheego bases the LiFe off the Chinese-built Shuanghuan Noble, which bears a Xerox-like resemblance to the Smart ForTwo. Aside from being flattered that someone thought the ForTwo was desirable enough to copy, Daimler has an agreement allowing the Noble on European roads — as long as they're powered by gasoline engines.

But battery-powered cars are a different matter; Daimler's relying on Smart to become its electric vehicle brand, and so when a European customer imported a Wheego LiFe, Daimler tattled to the German customs office, which reached for the keys to the forklift. Probably a Linde. Good, German-built forklift, best for crushing thin-gauge steel and batteries. Accept no substitutes.