Renault's tough action in spy fiasco may not end the affair

Bruce Gain is France correspondent for Automotive News Europe.Bruce Gain is France correspondent for Automotive News Europe.
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The Renault board's tough action over the industrial espionage fiasco at the automaker means the company can now focus on implementing its new mid-term strategy and on its bold bid to become a leader in electric cars.

Carlos Ghosn's key ally, Patrick Pelata, will step down as the automaker's chief operating officer, but will assume a role within the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which he could head, according to some reports.

Pelata, who was more involved in monitoring the alleged spy case than Ghosn, was the highest profile casualty, but six other top managers fell victim too.

They included Remi Pagnie, head of security, and his colleagues Marc Tixador and Dominique Gevrey, who gathered and communicated incorrect information that lead to the wrongful firing of three Renault executives falsely accused of spying.

Other executives "relieved of their duties pending discussions concerning their future" were Jean-Yves Coudriou, the head of human resources, Christian Husson, head of the legal department and Laurence Dors, general secretary.

Renault says the shakeup removes those responsible for the botched case and that structural changes in the company will prevent such a mishap from reoccurring. The measures include the creation of a new information security department and an in-depth reform of ethics and risk management policies.

Still, the affair will likely be the biggest blight in Ghosn's career, and the fall-out will continue.

Industry watchers believe Ghosn is safe in his job because he is too valuable to the Renault-Nissan alliance, but Renault's main union, the CGT said it was surprised that Ghosn was absolved of all responsibility. The union said the dismissals will not change anything at the company unless there is a structural overhaul of management at all levels.

And the French authorities are still conducting a criminal investigation into whether Renault was the victim of fraud in the spy case, so expect more interesting twists and turns.

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