• Germany's news in English

French accuse BMW of electric car 'spying'

The Local · 10 Sep 2013, 14:25

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd