Daimler engineers go undercover to get DHL StreetScooter electric truck
29. August 2018 - autoblog
StreetScooter renters weren't from a nursing-care service after all
Some time ago, we wrote about the lengths Daimler would go to analyze the workings of a Tesla Model X, when a couple accused the carmaker of renting their privately owned car and dismantling and rebuilding it after performing tests on it. It's not unusual for an automobile manufacturer to strip competitors' products when evaluating them, but that case was extraordinary.
Reportedly, Daimler employed similar interesting tactics when it wanted to examine the electric StreetScooter delivery vehicle created by DHL/Deutsche Post and the Aachen University. The German newspaper Der Spiegel writes that when StreetScooter development had progressed far enough last year, the manufacturer rented trial vehicles to prospective customers so they could see whether the electric trucks fit their needs and give feedback. Among the trial renters was said to be a nursing-care service from near Frankfurt, willing to test it for patient transport.
However, suspicions arose when the renter of the truck gave a fake address. The supposed nursing service only existed on paper as a "mailbox" company. As Der Spiegel says, addresses are something Deutsche Post is good with. After getting wind of this, the truck's engineers quickly scouted the location of the test vehicle by GPS and discovered it had been driven across Germany from Aachen to the Daimler factory in Stuttgart. Later, the truck was spotted at the company test track. So the StreetScooter team lawyered up and drove to the site, demanding their truck back. Der Spiegel says the vehicle was returned half an hour later.
When questioned by the newspaper, Daimler reportedly replied that since the StreetScooter had been planned to be offered for third parties, the vehicle was fair game for them to procure and examine. However, Daimler's response included no explanation for the nursing-service cover story. A little extra spice in the story: Der Spiegel mentions that Daimler representatives had dished out negative comments about the DHL truck's build quality beforehand, yet it apparently wasn't too poorly built to be studied.
Recently, the StreetScooter has gained a bigger electrified brother that was co-developed with Ford on the Transit platform, and Daimler has partnered with DHL's competitor Hermes.