A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to drive a Tesla Model X. It was a good "research" experience, as we love to be aware of vehicles available in the rental market, no matter how limited. Jonathan's willingly driven something as small as a Smart ForTwo and I've driven something as expensive as the Tesla Model X. You know who else does research? Automotive journalists and automotive manufacturers. Most of the time, manufacturers decide to conduct competitive intelligence by purchasing a vehicle made by a competitor. Mercedes-Benz decided to rent a Tesla Model X and then subject it to "testing".
Just How Bad is Testing by a Competing Manufacturer?
Only one of our team members speaks decent German, so we're relying upon translations of the original Der Spiegel article. A couple in Germany owns three different Teslas that they ship over to Sixt when they want to earn extra money (ostensibly, to pay for the three Teslas). And the couple was exceptionally happy to get a request for a seven-week rental! The couple was contacted by a Sixt staffer with the phrase "Automotive Industry Relations" in their e-mail signature asking very precise questions about the features and capability of the Tesla, which then went off to Sixt for the seven-week rental.
Yes, it's truly possible for the owners of exceptionally expensive vehicles to garner revenue through a small division of a major rental firm. However, the vehicle that's rented out is still going to be treated like, well, a rental -- that's one of the major reasons our team members don't rent out our own vehicles through peer-to-peer services like Turo. And the Tesla Model X that went to Mercedes-Benz was ostensibly treated worse than a rental.
- Violated geographic restrictions throughout Europe (against the rental agreement)
- Spent time at multiple test tracks (against the rental agreement)
- Was completely disassembled at least once (not expressly prohibited in the rental agreement, just common sense)
The car was extensively damaged when returned to the couple, who figured out the actual renter after finding a "You Parked Incorrectly" note from a Mercedes-Benz testing center* in the glove compartment.
* We sometimes wish we could walk around handing out "You Parked Incorrectly" citations.
As of this writing, the couple feels they haven't been fully compensated for the incident and all signs point to Mercedes-Benz and Sixt attempting to sweep the incident under the rug.
At a minimum, Mercedes-Benz should get a list of "do this, don't do that" on the vehicles they request from Sixt for testing in the future ... We do suspect some enter division at Mercedes-Benz is facing Sixt's Do Not Rent List and we're absolutely certain the executive team at Sixt will be leveraging this incident the next time the company replenishes their fleet of Daimler vehicles. After all, Sixt might be ever so upset at Mercedes Benz but has a fleet heavily reliant upon their luxury vehicles!
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