The DB decided to close a deal with MRCE back in 2006; 189 090-099 were sold MRCE, and then rented back from the Japanese leasing company. The DB gets some money; Mitsui invests in relatively new locomotives, ready for service. All machines got a little shield in every cabin, saying that they were now official property of MRCE. In May 2007, 189 095 was even painted all black, the corporate colour of MRCE.
189 092 and 093 lost their Railion logos at the end of 2007
But then the story took a strange turn. In the summer of 2007 MRCE made clear that they now had other plans with the batch of then, involving true international services, serving other customers of the leasing company. From 07.2007 to 01.2008, the contracts with the DB for 5 machines were ended; their logos removed, so they could be rented out to other operators.
In July 2007, 189 090 and 095 were the first ones returned by the DB and they were selected to undergo a true metamorphose. In Berlin, both got a complete repaint in black and white, then to be transported to Siemens in Munich for retrofitting additional train detection equipment, upgrade their software and to mount two extra pantographs. After that, the units were ready for services in Germany and the Netherlands. Their equipment configuration is since then known as 189-VJ.
189 090 and 095 were the first to be repainted in black in December 2007!
In January 2008, 189 090 was the very first to leave Munich. Minor alterations were made to its basic livery and the new MRCE Dispolok logos were added. 189 092 got the same look. 189 093-095, to be hired to Veolia, did not get all these logos, as they were soon (again) restyled in Veolia colours.
The new MRCE Dispolok designation of these machines caused some problems. It would be logical to rename then as ES 64 F4-09x, but MRCE already operated locomotives with these numbers. For a short while there were two ES 64 F4-094s, as the former DB 189 094 got this number by mistake. It seems not be easy to decide what to call these machines then, so 189 090/092-095 were all delivered with only 'ES 64 F4' up front, which makes it a bit harder to identify them. The smaller Cesifer and UIC numbers can help out on this.
189 091 and 096-099 kept their red livery until September 2008. Like the other five machines they were retrofitted as sub type VJ in the first months of 2008 (hence the white front and UIC service numbers) but as they were rented out to DB Schenker again when they returned from the workshops, repainting was postponed.
At the end of September 2008, DB Schenker returned 189 091/096-099 to MRCE Dispolok, and all five arrived at Seddin (Germany) on 30.09.2008. From there they were transported to Berlin-Ruhleben, waiting for a make-over in black. On 13.09.2008 the first three, 091/096/097, were first spotted in their new MCRE livery. Most remarkable about the machines was that they did have complete MRCE Dispolok service numbers: ES 64 F4-991/996/997. The former 189 090/092-095 were still running around without a proper number by that time.
By the end of October, also ES 64 F4-998 and -999 were ready for service. -999 got an additional name while being repainted: Mike. All machines were still representing the VJ-configuration and were rented out to Dutch freight operators ERS Railways and ACTS.