The electric Renault affair is slowly unfolding leaving behind a trail of mistrust, paranoia and evidently little to no proof, showing how much is at stake for companies pushing in the electrification of their cars.
The gist, the Nissan-Renault Alliance grabbed the attention of headlines a few months back when Renault fired three of its top brass on allegation of espionage. Why is this important to us? It could happen anywhere, to any of our domestic car makers. And what happened anyway?
The Renault gaffe. Acting on an anonymous tip, Renault fired three of its to executives for allegedly siphoning trade secrets to foreign companies, finger pointing to the Chinese, who vehemently denied any wrong doing. What is at stake is a 4bn Euro investment for the Alliance, roughy $5.6bn into the new-coming of the electrification of its cars. And the problem was that in the end, there was little to no evidence as the French criminal investigation slowly reveals. No foreign bank accounts were discovered. No leaked secrets were found. Nothing much amounted to the final consternation that Renault was duped into paying 250,000 euros to one of its internal security officer, who was asking for another 900,000. This person promised to reveal all the information after receiving the final amount but was detained boarding a plane, trying to leave the country.
Renault back pedals. After hailing loud and clearly the information was real, albeit with little to sustain it, Ghosn and the Renault head Pelata have put their reputation forward and now concede that Renault has fallen “victim” to manipulations.
So a few questions need be asked. Why would Renault go on record with little to no evidence? At stake is a heavy investment, which obviously gave birth to intense paranoia. Why is the so-called informant not named? At this stage, that person probably doesn’t exits. But the interesting question would be, could it happen here? You bet it could, to any of our domestic car makers considering what is at stake is putting a car company ahead of the competition.
A few lessons we can take away. It is obvious by now that the electrification of cars is serious business as the Renault numbers point to; $5.6bn to make their electric vehicles, EV a reality, serious business. That car makers, along with most other big corporations can be easily duped. That is obvious. Also, EVs carry a lot of passion and the stigmata of a failed past, now ready to bounce into its legitimate promise of a glorious future. There is much at stake here. Finally that in a very global world that shares global technology, it will be increasingly harder and harder for companies to brandish the patriotic and national flag.
Here is what I am interested in, this is THE perfect modern book story. It has everything one would need for a successful story as the infancy of the “electric car”. It has the shocking revelation. The suspense, intrigue and high-profile denunciation. And finally, it has the love affair, that of electric cars. Surely Renault will learn a few lessons, and hopefully other car makers that the most important lesson is people are tantalized by a good story, which will be wrapped under the rebirth of the EV as an attention grabber. And I thought I had a good idea for the electric car. The electrifying Renault Affair sounds even better.