competitive teardown
n. Reverse engineering a competitor's product by taking it apart and examining its components and materials.
Toyotas aren't the only cars being disemboweled here at GM's Vehicle Assessment and Benchmarking Activity center. A 2006 Mercedes ML350 waits to be carved up with a handheld power saw. A VW Touareg is spread helter-skelter. Chryslers and Hondas and BMWs and Fords lie dismantled, their parts reduced to labels and data points: Cap ASM F/Tank Fil, 1 @ .068 kg. Switch ASM HTR w/bezel, 1 @ .174 kg. It's all part of the biggest open secret in Detroit: Automakers reverse engineer their opponents' newest and hottest vehicles in what's called a competitive teardown.
—Carl Hoffman, “The Teardown Artists,” Wired, February 01, 2006
There is no substitute for tearing down a competitors product in order to make cost and quality comparisons. In 1997 a Midwest appliance manufacturer initiated a competitive teardown of refrigerators and found its product to be 40% heavier with 70% more parts than the best-in-class refrigerator of the same size — a shocking revelation in a brutally cost competitive market.
—“Benchmarking,”, January 01, 2005
1994 (earliest)
All of Ford Motor Company's (NYSE: F) major North American product development teams will soon operate under one roof, with the construction of a new $150 million Program Team Facility in Dearborn, Mich. …

In addition to the office space for the team engineers, it (the facility) will feature design studios, engineering mock-up rooms, electronic review rooms, competitive teardown areas and garage facilities.
—“Ford's new program team facility will house all major future product development,” PR Newswire, February 02, 1994
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