Balthazard began his career at Renault in 1980, in the body engineering department. He was rose to become head of the company's D/E product range program and director of the New Laguna project, and was appointed vice president of pre-engineering, projects and requirements in 2006.
Executives had strategic roles
Renault said on Thursday that the matter concerned people in "particularly strategic" positions within the company.
"This investigation, which has lasted several months, has allowed us to identify an array of related elements showing that the behavior of these three employees was opposed to Renault's code of ethics, and consciously and deliberately put at risk company assets," Renault said.
Renault aims to become the first volume automaker to make electric vehicles available to the mass market and, with Japanese alliance partner Nissan Motor Co., is jointly investing 4 billion euros ($5.3 billion) in EV programs.
Renault plans to build more than 200,000 EVs a year by 2015-2016. This year, the automaker will launch three EVs in Europe -- the Fluence sedan, Kangoo delivery van and the two-seat Twizy. Nissan currently is rolling out its Leaf electric hatchback globally.
The three suspended executives could be dismissed soon if they are found to have leaked information, two sources told Reuters on Thursday.
"The internal investigation is continuing, but a decision should be made in the coming days," said one source. "In nine out of ten cases, suspension (without pay) of this kind, is followed by a dismissal," he said.
A second source said: "Suspension of this kind (without pay) never lasts very long. I think unfortunately in the days to come, next week, action will be taken, if action is to be taken."
'Economic warfare' fears
He added: "For the moment they have been accused, they have not been judged, they are suspected."
France has for some years been worried about potential attacks on its industrial secrets and even has a "school of economic warfare" aimed at rooting out economic subversion.