Photo credit: Tesla

Rental cars have hard lives full of frequent abuse from hoons and careless drivers alike, but Mercedes-Benz’s parent company Daimler apparently took it to a whole new level. According to a report in Germany’s Der Spiegel, Daimler rented a Tesla Model X to test and dismantle for research purposes. Not purchased—rented.

The story says Daimler rented the Model X for seven weeks in July and August from Sixt, the story says. The 100-kWh Model X belonged to Bavarian couple Mo­ni­ka Kind­lein and Man­fred van Rins­um, who own three Teslas they put up for rent—usually to wedding parties and other events directly as an additional source of income. The agency reached out to them to arrange the rental.

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However, the couple didn’t know who rented out their Model X until it was returned heavily damaged, with a note in the glove box which read “you parked incorrectly” from the Mercedes-Benz Technology Center in Sindelfingen, Germany, near the marque’s Stuttgart corporate headquarters.

(Jalopnik has reached out to both Sixt and Daimler for comment on this report, and will update if we hear back.)

The damage Daimler did in testing out the car’s capabilities was extensive, Der Spiegel writes (as translated by Google and edited for clarity by Jalopnik):

During the rental period, the car was apparently disassembled and screwed together again. In addition, it was tested under extreme conditions - including heat, on a vibrating track and a traction track.

In the original lease [agreement] with Sixt, however, both the disassembly and use on test tracks were not disclosed. At the end of the rental period, the vehicle was returned with damages in five-digit [figures, in Euros].

Van Rinsum told Der Spiegel that the Sixt representative asked many more technical questions about things like software versions and autonomous capabilities than most buyers ever ask before arranging the rental. The Sixt representative had “Automotive Industry Relations” as part of his email signature as well.

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Shortly after handing over the keys the Model X, Van Rinsum received a notification on his phone that it was being charged near Barcelona—much farther away than the rental agreement allowed. He then became suspicious and started tracking the car’s movements more often.

Onboard GPS systems showed that the car went on test tracks near Barcelona and Sindelfingen—another use prohibited by Sixt’s rental agreements, the story says.

While Sixt told Der Spiegel that it paid for damages, depreciation and appraisal costs related to the undisclosed use of the couple’s car, the couple claims that doesn’t cover all of their losses. An appraiser estimated that the damage to the Model X alone was €15,674 ($18,602 U.S.), and that it will lose €2,000 ($2,374 U.S.) in value due to the damage. The couple also couldn’t re-rent the Model X while it was damaged, either.

Van Rinsum wrote his own invoice to Sixt and Daimler for the repair costs for €99,392.79 ($117,984.21 U.S.). That figure includes repair costs, lost income due to the car being off the road, additional work the owners had to do to deal with the situation, a fine of €1,000 ($1,186 U.S.) per day the car was used on the test track, and payment for a confidentiality agreement.

Sixt billed their customer (who they did not name as Daimler to Der Spiegel) for the damage, as Sixt claims that they did not know that the car would go on the test track. Sadly, the couple told Der Spiegel that they doubt they’ll ever get either company to pay for the full amount they believe they are owed, as both companies’ legal resources would dwarf theirs should they take the case to court.

A Daimler representative told Der Spiegel that such rentals for comparison tests are common in the automotive industry, and that insurance usually covers any damages.

Renter beware in Germany, I guess.

Tearing cars apart to use as benchmarks for future models is a thing that happens; the company that provides such information to automakers that Jalopnik featured dissected vehicles that had been purchased for that purpose. Purchased, not rented!

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As for why they might rip apart a rental Model X, Mercedes is about to launch an electric SUV of their own, the Mercedes EQC, in 2019.

UPDATE [12:44 p.m.]: A Daimler representative declined to comment on this particular rented Tesla when Jalopnik reached out to the company for comment on this story, and also reiterated that renting test cars is a standard practice in the industry:

· Renting vehicles for comparison purposes is a common procedure in the automotive industry
· In case the rental vehicles are damaged in the course of the rental period, the normal insurance procedure is started and a claim settlement is made
· We kindly ask for your understanding that we do not comment on individual vehicle rentals.

[Reported with translation help from David Tracy.]