It's hardly unusual for car companies to pick up a competitor's model to get a closer look at what they're up against, run tests and maybe even dissemble it to discover what makes it tick. You can especially understand why a company would do that with a disruptive upstart like Tesla. But you'd also expect the company to buy the car outright if they're going to put it through extensive testing and stress.
Not Daimler, apparently. According to a report in Der Spiegel, the German automaker used a rental company to acquire a Tesla Model X from a Bavarian couple, put it through heavy testing and dismantle it, returning the re-assembled battery-electric SUV to its owners heavily damaged.
An appraisal pegged the damage at the equivalent of $18,602, with more than $2,300 in lost value to the car. The vehicle's owners, Monika Kindlein and Manfred van Rinsum, wrote an invoice to Daimler and rental agency Sixt totaling nearly $118,000, a figure that includes repair costs, lost income from being unrentable and violations of the rental agreement. In a statement, Daimler wouldn't comment on the specific case but said renting vehicles for comparison purposes is commonplace in the auto industry and that insurance claims normally settle cases where rental vehicles are damaged.
The incident took place over seven weeks in July and August, after Sixt reached out to Kindlein and van Rinsum about renting one of the three Teslas they typically offer as rentals to wedding parties and other events for extra income. The couple say they didn't know who rented their Model X, but they said the Sixt representative asked a variety of unusually technical questions about software versions and autonomous-driving capabilities and had an email signature that read "Automotive Industry Relations."
Shortly after renting it out, van Rinsum said he received notifications on his phone that the Model X was being charged near Barcelona, which was well outside the distance allowed in the rental agreement. Onboard GPS systems would later show the car was on test tracks near Barcelona and Sindelfingen, Germany, near the Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart. The car reportedly underwent extreme heat and testing on vibration and traction tracks.
We'll have to see how this resolves, but the couple say they're not optimistic they'll get all their money back. Renter beware, we guess.