EU says BMW, Daimler and VW colluded to limit emissions tech
The antitrust regulator said the companies broke EU laws from 2006 to 2014 by agreeing among themselves to limit rollout of the technology.
European Union authorities have said German car makers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen colluded to limit the development of emissions-cleaning technology in cars.
The finding adds to the car industry’s woes after Volkswagen in 2015 admitted to cheating on emissions tests in the US, which led to a worldwide re-evaluation of how cars are tested and how to limit emissions to make air cleaner and fight climate change.
The EU antitrust regulator said an in-depth investigation found that BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen, including its Audi and Porsche units, broke EU laws from 2006 to 2014 by illegally agreeing among themselves to limit the rollout of the technology.
#EUAntitrust We have sent an Statement of Objections to BMW, Daimler and— EU Competition (@EU_Competition) April 5, 2019
VW for restricting competition on emission cleaning technology. Our preliminary view is that they have breached EU antitrust rules from 2006 to 2014: https://t.co/rdGj0YrOlB pic.twitter.com/aKhsmf9mDs
The technology helps eliminate nitrogen oxides, which can be harmful to human health, from petrol and diesel passenger cars.
The alleged actions would have limited Europeans’ options for less polluting cars, but not their price.
The probe is separate from other legal procedures against car makers for allegedly breaching environmental laws or using illegal software in car engines.
EU authorities raided the offices of the three companies in October 2017 and opened their investigation in September last year.
BMW said discussions among engineers were meant to improve exhaust gas technologies and that the whole industry was aware of these talks. It said they did not involve any secret agreements or intend to hurt customers.
Daimler said it was co-operating with the EU and does not expect to receive a fine.
Volkswagen said it was also co-operating and would issue a statement once it has reviewed the EU investigation.
The EU noted that its preliminary findings do not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.
The case comes after Volkswagen admitted four year ago to using software in diesel car engines to cheat on US emissions tests. It has set aside 27.4 billion euros (£23.6 billion) for fines, settlements, recalls and buybacks.
Former chief executive Martin Winterkorn was criminally charged by US authorities but cannot be extradited. Audi’s division head was jailed.
Renewed scrutiny of diesel emissions revealed that cars from other manufacturers also showed higher diesel emissions in everyday driving than during testing, thanks in part to regulatory loopholes that let the firms turn down emissions controls to avoid engine damage under certain conditions.
The EU subsequently tightened its testing procedures.
Anti-trust fines can be steep. In 2016 and 2017 the EU Commission imposed a fine of 3.8 billion euros (£3.2 billion) after it found that six truck makers had colluded on pricing, the timing of introduction of emissions technologies and the passing on of costs for emissions compliance to customers.