Two carmakers go head to head over a bright, shiny object.
Diamonds are Forever, or so Ian Fleming told us in 1956. It’s not the view of Munich Regional Court No.1, which found in favour of Renault’s challenge to Chinese-owned Borgward AG’s use of a rhombus-shaped badge firmly in the tradition of their 59 years defunct Bremen-based predecessor company.
As if Borgward AG’s present woes were not great enough, the Bremen newspaper Weser-Kurier reported on 9 May 2020 that Groupe Renault have won an injunction against Borgward AG over the use of their diamond badge design.
The terms of the judgement are swingeing:
- Payment of financial damages, the sum yet to be set.
- Requirement for Borgward to provide details of where, and to what extent it has used the diamond badge.
- An order to stop using the logo in its present form immediately on cars and all promotional material.
- Cars already delivered are no longer permitted to display the diamond logo, and existing advertising material which feature it must be destroyed.
- If the company does not comply with the order, the managing director may face a fine of up to €250,000 or two years in prison.
Borgward AG, unsurprisingly, intend to oppose the order, according to a company representative in China contacted by the Weser-Kurier.
The Bremen newspaper provides an insightful history lesson from Marion Kayser, the redoubtable chairwoman of the Borgward Club Bremen.
“The difference between the two diamonds is clear to the club. According to their information, the rhombus was introduced in the 1930s when Borgward opened production in Sebaldsbrück. Renault has been using its diamond since 1925. The strict lines and the form were based on Cubism and take up the spirit of the 1920s.
At Borgward in the 1950s, they considered changing the logo or at least modernising it, says Kayser. This was due to an initiative by advertising manager Heinz Thomass. One of the reasons, says Kayser, was that Thomass considered that the Borgward rhombus and the Renault diamond were too similar.”
It does seem to be a petty and mean-spirited action on the part of Renault, considering that the real Borgward has a historic precedent going back to the many years when the two diamond-badged carmakers co-existed, unconcerned at the similarity of their brand signifiers.
I would hate to think the move was inspired by spite at Renault’s woeful sales in China -18,281 in 2019, down 63% from the preceding year. Borgward managed a best-ever 45,324, albeit a little short of their 2016 ambition, which – I had to remind myself – was an annual output of 800,000 “affordable premium” cars of various types in 2020. At least they will have an excuse for the shortfall.
I can’t help but note that the present Renault logo isn’t even a diamond – it’s an irregular hexagon, and has been since 1972.
Until recent times, it’s never been particularly prominent – just a badge, often quite apologetically small. It’s only relatively recently that it has grown into something almost as visually dominant as an Alfa scudetto, or the BMW ‘kidneys’. Perhaps neue Borgward should bring a counter-claim citing the huge rhombi on their ’50s cars and trucks: