Renault’s paranoia over industrial espionage backfired earlier this week as it struggled with the reality that it had been duped into believing that three of its executives had been selling electric car secrets to the Chinese. 

But while Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn made a formal apology to the three men and offered to reinstate them in their positions, rumors within the auto industry suggest they may already be receiving job offers from rival firms. 

One of the exonerated executives, former head of development projects Michel Balthazard, has already rejected Renault’s apology and job offer. It’s highly unlikely if the the other two men, (Betrand Rochette and Matthieu Tenenbaum) react any differently.

Given all three have expertise in electric cars, we can’t imagine they will be without work for long. 

Automotive News’ Bruce Gain agrees. In a post yesterday, Gain highlighted Volkswagen as being the most likely employer, having already offered jobs to former Renault electric car experts. 

Volkswagen Golf Blue e-Motion

Volkswagen Golf Blue e-Motion

Although Volkswagen hasn’t always been completely convinced there is even a future for electric cars, the group now has electric vehicles in development in its Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche brands it has yet to bring a vehicle to market. 

In other words, it is faced with the uphill game of catchup if it wants to compete with the likes of Nissan, General Motors and Renault. 

For VW, hiring former Renault employees is a smart move. They already have significant knowledge of the market, the technology and the challenges facing automakers wanting to launch a competitive mainstream electric car. 

In order to understand just how big a  bonus new hires with an existing electric car knowledge are to automakers, you have to remember that for the majority of the auto industry electric cars are still perceived as a huge financial and business risk.

After decades of working with gasoline, Diesel and hybrid systems, the average automaker  still views pure electric cars as scary, unknown entities with huge development costs and very little profit margin.

Collaborative projects are one way of handling the burden of dealing with a technology perceived as cutting-edge, such as those between Renault and Daimler. 


Volkswagen electric car

Volkswagen electric car

But hiring electric car executives from another automaker? That’s a sure-fire way to make sure you don’t have to dance to someone else’s tune. 

Given that VW has been eagerly snapping up executives and engineers from Porsche, General Motors, Opel and Renault in recent months, we have a sneaking suspicion that 

Messieurs Balthazard, Rochett and Tenenbaum will soon be enjoying all the things Wolfsburg has to offer. 

Ultimately, the extra knowledge and experience these three men have makes them highly desirable for any automaker seeking electric car market share. 

Snatched from a disgraced employer into the role of electric car saviors at competing firm?

Don’t laugh: After all, VW has a lofty plan to dominate the world of electric cars, and it needs someone to help crush the competition, right? 

[Automotive News (subscription required)]