It’s not rare for automakers to buy vehicles from competitors in order to reverse-engineer or benchmark them as part of their R&D effort, but Mercedes-Benz reportedly used a particularly strange and arguably shady way to do it for the Tesla Model X.
But instead of simply buying one from Tesla or a used one, the automaker reportedly rented one from a Bavarian couple through the car rental company Sixt.
According to the German magazine Spiegel (German and paywall), the couple was going on vacation for a few weeks and decided to loan their Model X to the company, which in turn rented it to Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company.
Unknown to the actual owner of the car, Mercedes then proceeded to thoroughly test the electric vehicle and then dismantle it before rebuilding it again and giving it back to Sixt.
According to the company, Mercedes drove the Model X at their test track in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart in Germany and put it through heat and vibration tests. They also reportedly drove it all the way to Barcelona in Spain.
Sixt says that this kind of use goes against their rental agreement and while they reportedly compensated the owners, they say that Daimler should pay for the damage incurred on the vehicle, which they estimate to be “in the five digits.”
I don’t understand why they didn’t simply buy one from Tesla. They could have easily done it indirectly with an employee being compensated. They didn’t have to ruin someone else’s Model X.
If for some petty reason they really didn’t want to give any money to Tesla, it’s probably not going to work since either the repair cost or the cost of new Model X will end up going to Tesla after all is said and done.
Either way, despite the strange way that they decided to do it, it does make sense for them to play with the Model X ahead of the EQC launch in early 2019.
Audi did the same thing to the Model X last year (though they apparently bought their own from Tesla in the US) and they plan to launch their electric SUV next year. Now Mercedes does the same thing a year later and their own electric SUV is also expected to hit the market about a year after Audi’s.