In my recent post Mercedes Fuel Cell Vehicle PR Tour - Oops!, I discuss how a mistake in a 2011 Daimler press release was repeated in a Bloomberg News story. The mistake concerns bragging rights for performing the world's first demonstration of a fuel cell car! You'd think they'd do a little fact-checking on their press releases!
One of the first hits on my Googling "first fuel cell vehicle" for my earlier post was the hydrogencarsnow.com post 1966 GM Electrovan (left)! Verifying this was a real van was easy, as General Motors has a Fuel Cell Milestones page that confirms its existence. In fact, this earliest fuel cell car is housed at the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, MI.
So I checked to see if the Daimler mistake that was made in their 2011 press release was an isolated incident, or if they made similar mistakes in earlier releases. Guess what -- I easily found ten (10!) Daimler press releases saying the same thing! (Then I stopped counting.) The earliest I found, dated Nov 8, 2007, Daimler AG to Become Majority Stakeholder in New "Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation", says:
"A pioneer in fuel cell technology, Daimler introduced the world’s first fuel cell vehicle as early as 1994."
I also found a similar 2007 Ford press release: DAIMLER AG, FORD MOTOR COMPANY TO BECOME PRIMARY STAKEHOLDERS IN NEW AUTOMOTIVE FUEL CELL COOPERATION. The Ford version, slightly modifying the Daimler text, says:
"A pioneer in fuel cell technology, Daimler introduced the world’s first fuel cell vehicle in 1994."
So the 2011 mistake is not simply a matter of semantics, or a bad translation from the German. The truth is that for years Daimler has believed that they made the first fuel cell vehicle!
I sent an email to the Daimler PR people to see if they'd correct their most recent over-statement, given their pattern of mis-statements. After some back and forth with Matthias Brock (Research, Development and Environmental Communications, Head of Media Relations, Daimler AG), he told me they would not correct the press release. On the plus side, he at least said "You are right - we could have been a little bit more precise by saying 'Mercedes-Benz recognised this potential at an early stage, launching ITS first vehicle with fuel cell drive, the NECAR 1, as early as 1994.'", as well as "Thanks Keith, we are going to take that into account in the future."
The only problem is that the Internet Archive, as well as Google and everyone else, now have an extensive record that claims that Daimler/Mercedes-Benz had the first fuel cell vehicle. Poor GM is not getting the credit for being 18 years ahead of Daimler!