By Drew Johnson
Friday, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 11:15 am
 
A number of Chinese automakers have been accused of stealing vehicle designs, but Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation has become the first Chinese automaker thought to be guilty of stealing trade secrets.

According to the latest reports out of Korea, SAIC is being accused of stealing hybrid technology from its Korean partner Ssangyong. SAIC purchased a 48.9 percent stake in Ssangyong in 2005 and reportedly stole the company's hybrid technology in 2006.

Ssangyong developed its first "Hybrid Control Unit" in 2004, thanks to a large contribution from the Korean government. However, the Korea car maker soon fell on hard times, opening the door for SAIC's purchase in 2005.

With SAIC struggling to develop hybrid technology of its own, the Chinese automaker reportedly forced Ssangyong engineers to share the automaker's hybrid tech in 2006. Rumors of such dealing surfaced in 2007, but no action was taken until earlier this week.

As a result of the investigation, seven Ssangyong engineers have been indicted on charges of transferring sensitive information to SAIC. However, despite its involvement, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office says it has no plans to bring charges against SAIC, according to The Korean Times.

The findings seem to support the theory that SAIC only purchased Ssangyong to gain access to its technology and leave the company by the wayside. Ssangyong was forced into bankruptcy earlier this year and recently had its turnaround plan rejected by outside investors. A final meeting on the fate of the company is set for December 11th.