• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

French accuse BMW of electric car 'spying'

The Local · 10 Sep 2013, 14:25

Published: 10 Sep 2013 14:25 GMT+02:00

Another Franco-German automobile row appears to have kicked off this week.

As the bust-up between between Mercedes and the French government rumbles on, another Franco-German automobile row appears to have kicked off this week with French company Autolib accusing BMW of "spying".

The affair began on August 21st, when Autolib maintenance staff spotted two men they said were German, at a recharging station in Paris, fiddling with computer equipment in one of the electric vehicles, called "Blue cars".

Later that day, the same men reportedly passed themselves off as “maintenance staff” and pretended to carry out work on one of the cars in the city’s 9th arrondissement, before slipping away.

Their suspicions raised, one of the Autolib ambassadors made a note of the license plate of one of the cars rented by the German men, cross-referenced it with rental times, and discovered that a “P3-group.com” email suffix was used to sign up online for the Autolib scheme.

P3 is an engineering firm contracted by none other than BMW to lay the groundwork for its upcoming I3 electric car model.

The following day, the alleged spies were once again seen at an Autolib station, this time in the city’s second arrondissement.

According to reports in French daily Le Figaro, when questioned by staff, the two men said they worked for BMW, before quickly leaving the scene.

This time, management at Autolib, which is run by French company Bolloré, notified the DCRI, France’s intelligence services, and told its entire staff to be on the look-out for phoney "maintenance staff".

They were not seen again until September 5th, when they were spotted on Rue Jouffroy-d’Abbans in the seventh arrondissement.

Staff immediately called in the police, who came and arrested the two suspects.

They were questioned by BEFTI, the police’s electronic fraud division, before being released the next day.

Autolib management promptly filed a police complaint, accusing the two men of “abuse of trust,” “intrusion into a system of automated data,” and property damage, according to Le Figaro.

BMW reportedly took the step of writing to Bolloré's CEO, Vincent Bolloré, reportedly recognizing it had dispatched staff to conduct “compatibility tests,” and apologizing for not seeking advanced permission from Bolloré.

However, in a statement released on Tuesday, BMW France denied all allegations of industrial espionage.

"In the context of the upcoming launch of the BMW I3, BMW Group is conducting routine tests across Europe, to check the compatibility of charging stations on public streets," said the statement.

"The sole purpose of these tests is to identify networks of charging stations that electric BMW vehicles could use."

The company confirmed it had conducted tests of this kind on August 21st, 22nd and 26th in Paris, but significantly denied it had done so on September 5th, the day the two alleged spies were arrested.

A representative from the P3 Group was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Local on Tuesday.

Story continues below…

Autolib, an all-electric car-sharing scheme based on the French capital's successful bike-sharing project Velib, launched in October 2011.

Users can rent and return one of the more than 4,000 Bluecars for as little as €9 for half an hour, or as much as €120 for an annual subscription of unlimited journeys of up to 30 minutes.

Since launching in Paris, the scheme has come to the eastern city of Lyon, and is slated to arrive in Bordeaux, south-western France in November.

After that, plans are afoot to bring the all-electric car-sharing scheme to the US city of Indianapolis in 2014.

READ MORE: BMW to recall 140,000 cars in China

Dan MacGuill

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Vice-Chancellor: TTIP trade deal is dead
Photo: DPA

Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Sunday that negotiations on a massive trade deal between the European Union and the United States were effectively dead in the water.

Law to force mums to give up identity of child's real father
Photo: DPA

Germany has drafted a law requiring mothers to inform their partners if their children were fathered by another man, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday.

Gallery
Germans race bulls too, but with a difference
Photo: DPA

The most important sporting events only happen every four years: the World Cup, the Olympics, and of course the Münsing ox race.

Attempted murder charge for Isis teen who stabbed cop
A police officer stands on a train platform at Hannover main station. Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Monday they had brought charges against a 16-year-old girl who allegedly stabbed a policeman in February in an operation for Isis.

Nearly 9,000 refugee children reported missing: report
Refugee children in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

German media reported on Monday that the number of refugee children reported as missing has doubled to reach nearly 9,000.

EU nations must not refuse Muslim migrants: Merkel
Photo: DPA

The refusal of some EU countries to accept Muslim refugees is "unacceptable", Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday as Germany called for quotas to divide the influx throughout the bloc.

Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
File photo: DPA

When a man swimming naked in a Bavarian lake felt a strange pain in his nether regions, he looked up to see a fisherman on the shore. "Don’t pull!" he shouted.

Study finds rival Rhineland beers 'actually taste the same'
Left: Altbier. Right: Kölsch. Or can you even tell? Photos: DPA.

Cologne and Düsseldorf have a long established rivalry, not least over who has the better home brew. So the results of a new study might be more than they can swallow.

Eastern Europe pushes Germany for joint EU army
Angela Merkel (l), Beata Szydlo and Victor Orban. Photo: DPA

Eastern EU countries on Friday pushed for the bloc to create a joint army as they met with Germany for talks on sketching Europe's post-Brexit future.

Merkel’s party mate wants to get rid of all Karl Marx streets
Karl Marx and one of the roadways in Berlin named for him. Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Nicor

Hundreds of streets are named after the founder of communism, but this conservative politician wants to give Marx the boot.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
8,441
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd