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Trade secret leak scandal engulfs Renault

Unplugged: Confidential details of Renault's electric vehicle program for vehicles such as the Zoe have allegedly been leaked, resulting in the suspension of three executives.

Three executives stood down by Renault over ‘misconduct’ involving EV secrets

Renault logo7 Jan 2011

FRENCH car-maker Renault is preparing to bring legal action against three unnamed executives that it suspended this week after allegations of information leaks from its flagship electric vehicle (EV) program.

Although Renault has not released details of the nature of the “misconduct”, France’s industry minister Eric Besson told journalists he believed the matter was related to electric vehicles, describing the issue as “serious”.

The scandal has rocked Renault and it alliance partner Nissan, which are spending billions of dollars to bring several electric vehicles to market by late 2011.

The suspension of the three group executives was announced in Paris on Thursday by Renault’s general counsel and compliance officer Christian Husson, who said the decision was made after an investigation by Renault Group’s compliance committee.

“The procedure is fully standardised, highly rigorous and entirely in line with the ethical principles of our group,” he said in a statement.

 center imageFrom top: Renault Fluence ZE, Renault Twizy ZE and Renault Kangoo ZE.



“The investigation, which lasted several months, enabled us to identify a body of converging evidence demonstrating that three group employees have committed misconduct that infringes Renault’s ethics, consciously and deliberately endangering the company’s assets.

“Renault decided to take action because these are serious acts concerning people with extremely strategic positions at the group.

“Their acts justify this suspension, the first aim of which is to immediately protect the strategic, intellectual and technological assets of our company.

“In accordance with labor laws, Renault will preserve the identity of the three persons concerned.

“The investigation is underway. We are examining all legal options, which will inevitably result in legal action, but at this point, Renault will make no further comments.”

Renault sources quoted by Reuters suggest the three executives are likely to be dismissed within days.

It is not yet clear if the alleged breach involves industrial espionage in a traditional sense or a careless leak.

As the French government owns a large slice of Renault, authorities are paying close attention to the matter.

Renault have a number of ‘ZE’ (zero emissions) vehicles under development, including the Zoe five-door hatch that is set to go into production at the company’s Flins plant in France for a European launch in mid 2012.

The Clio-sized Zoe – revealed the 2010 Paris motor show – shares much of its technology with partner Nissan’s Leaf EV that is also being rolled out around the world, starting with trial programs in the US and Japan.

As well, Renault has plans for electric versions of the Fluence small car, Kangoo Express mini-van and an all-new urban two-seater called Twizy. The latter is expected to be one of the first electric Renaults to go on open sale, perhaps as early as mid 2011.

All the Renault and Nissan EVs use advanced lithium-ion batteries developed jointly by Nissan and NEC.

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