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Paris car-share firm sues BMW for 'spying'

AFP

Bolloré, the French investment firm behind Paris’s Autolib car-sharing service, filed a suit against German car manufacturer BMW on Tuesday for alleged industrial espionage.

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Paris’ Autolib’ scheme might be all about car-sharing, but the company that operates the service draws the line at sharing its technology. Bolloré, the French investment firm behind Autolib’, announced on Tuesday that it had filed a suit against BMW for industrial espionage.

Bolloré alleged that two employees from a firm hired by BMW were spotted tampering with Autolib’ charging points in the French capital on three separate occasions, which it considered evidence that the German car manufacturer was after its technology.

"We do not know for now what information they have been able to gather or the technologies that they have used," Autolib' spokesman Jules Varin told the AFP news agency.

"All we can say is that Bolloré is ahead in several technologies in which we have invested a lot of money, including the battery and the geo-location system.”

BMW denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the two workers had been employed by the engineering company P3 to prepare the launch for its upcoming “BMW i3” electric car.

“[They were] conducting routine tests carried out across Europe to check the compatibility of charging points on public roads," BMW explained.

The two men allegedly aroused suspicions when found tampering with a Bolloré Bluecar – as the electric model is called – on August 21 at a charging point in the city's 9th district.

When questioned by Autolib' staff, they reportedly replied in halting French that they worked for a German carmaker. They gave no name but were driving a BMW car registered in Germany.

The next day they were spotted at another charging point but the Autolib' maintenance staff were unable to detain them. They were seen on September 5 in the city's 7th district and arrested.

The duo was questioned by police but released the following day.

BMW said it had ordered the tests be carried out the first two times the pair was spotted but not the day they were arrested.

The Autolib' service, which provides all-electric cars for public use on a paid subscription basis, began in December 2011. The vehicles can be picked up at parking and charging stations across Paris.

Autolib’ currently has 34,000 subscribers, 1,800 vehicles and about 4,000 charging points in the French capital and its suburbs, and has been extended to other cities such as Lyon and Bordeaux.

Nearly 6,000 electric cars were registered in France last year, of which a third were Autolib' vehicles, according to the Bolloré group.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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