While France Suspects China, Renault Backpedals

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

We don’t know who gave which state secrets to whom at Renault. But now we know what everybody already suspected: “The Elysee has charged the DCRI (intelligence services) with an investigation. It is following a Chinese lead,” a French government source told Reuters.

If they find a smoking gun in China, then it’s war: Yesterday, France’s industry minister Eric Besson called the scandal “economic warfare.”

Reuters doesn’t know more, but found some highly suspicious activity:

“China, where auto exhaust emissions account for around 70 percent of air pollution in major cities, is pushing green vehicles heavily as part of the development of its auto industry. China’s output of electric vehicles is expected to reach 1 million units by 2020, the official Xinhua news agency said late last year.”

That should be enough of a motive.

While France’s CIA is snooping around, Renault is backpedaling. Just-auto has it that “Renault is distancing itself from claims of industrial espionage following the suspension of three employees this week.”

“Industrial espionage, we don’t mention,” a Renault spokeswoman in Paris told just-auto. “Although you read about espionage, it is not something that Renault ever mentions. We talk about serious effects, serious enough to lead to a suspension, but we never give the nature of these facts.”

So what is it really? Germany’s Spiegel Magazine echoes Ed’s suspicions that “this may have less to do with foreign attackers than in-house rivalries.”

Der Spiegel reports that the team around Michel Balthazard, had made “disrespectful comments regarding the corporate strategy” of Renault: “EVs harbor many unsolved problems, for which there is not even a hint of a solution.” Who knows, maybe they were amongst the 200 executives that said similar things to KPMG. Of course, such impure thoughts are heresy at Renault which is betting the house on the success of EVs. “We put $ 5 billion on the table,” said Francois Bancon, chief strategist at Nissan. “If this goes wrong, we are dead.” Blame it on the Chinese if you die.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Pista Pista on Jan 07, 2011

    It's the Tupolev 144 all over again. If, as Wikileaks has revealed just this week, France is number one for industrial espionage worldwide, then the French should realise that that's a two-way street.

  • Tree Trunk Tree Trunk on Jan 07, 2011

    I can just imagine the little tears of joy from workers at the Renault Tec department. We are there, we done it! Since the other the big evil dinosaur car manufactures are trying to steal our technology it must be pretty good.

  • Vatchy Just think how many electric vehicles could be charged from a new nuclear power plant...
  • Arthur Dailey 'The capitalists will sell use the very rope that we use to hang them.' In our household we have cut down our shopping/spending and pay more to purchase products from 1st world nations or 2nd world nations that are our 'allies'. That also means quite often only buying and eating fruit and vegetables that are in season. Just like our parents and grandparents did.At least TTAC published an article on May 21st regarding LAN transformers that contravene the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act being used in some BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, and VW products?
  • ToolGuy I wouldn't buy any old Chinese brand of vehicle, but the right EV at the right price, maybe possibly yes. If you told me this would alarm Ford and torque off FreedMike, all the better. 😉P.S. I would *definitely* consider an EV made in Taiwan. Take that, paramount leader!P.P.S. China batteries/components to convert one of my ICE vehicles to EV? Yes.
  • Wolfwagen I expect Renault to be less popular than Fiat
  • ToolGuy Helium-3, baby!