To the Editor,
Your centenary review of Renault passed too lightly over the fate of Louis Renault and the acquisition of his firm by the state.
Having returned to occupied France from a failed mission to persuade the USA to supply tanks for his country's defense, Louis sought - like many others - to play a part in preserving the economic fabric and industrial heritage of France. Had he not done so, his plant and workforce risked transfer to Germany and absorption into Daimler-Benz.
Of course, Renault vehicles contributed to the German war effort, but a remark by Louis Renault said it all: 'Give them the butter or they'll take the cows.'
This was surely pragmatic patriotism of the highest Gallic order.
With the Germans gone and rampaging left-wing politics demanding bloody retribution, Louis' actions were construed as collaboration. But he did not simply 'die' while awaiting trial, as your account suggests. Already ill, he was tortured and killed by his ex-Maquis gaolers. A forensic X-ray indicated a broken neck. His company was then seized by the state.
Considering that no recompense was paid to his family after nationalization, although the Renault name was retained, we have the arguable legal situation that Regie Renault constitutes the proceeds of a theft following a murder.