EU Launches Emissions Collusion Investigation Against German Automakers
Roughly one year ago, German automakers were confronted with a crisis. Following Volkswagen’s diesel emissions fiasco, European antitrust regulators became suspicious that BMW, Daimler, and VW Group were involved in a longstanding automotive cartel that cooperated on decisions regarding technical issues, development, supplier management, and illegal price fixing. Investigators were also concerned manufacturers worked together to standardize diesel treatment fluid (AdBlue) reservoirs to reduce exhaust emissions, then encouraged each other to cheat on emissions tests when they were deemed insufficient.
This resulted in a series of raids and then almost a full year of silence on the matter. However, if Volkswagen’s dieselgate has taught us anything, it’s that German authorities prefer a snail’s pace when pursuing a criminal probe.
Apparently unsatisfied with the initial findings, the European Commission opened an in-depth and official investigation on Tuesday against the “circle of five,” a group that includes Audi, VW, Porsche, Daimler, and BMW. The quintet is accused of holding meetings where they colluded to limit the development and application of certain emissions control systems for cars sold in Europe. There’s also an accusation of price fixing.
BMW Raided in German Cartel Investigation, Daimler Seeks Immunity
Back in July, German authorities became concerned that the country’s manufacturers had been operating one of the largest automotive cartels in history. With many auto executives still under the microscope for diesel emission manipulation, combined with inter-familial strife between the Piech and Porsche clans, Germany’s auto industry was starting to resemble a PG version of the film Goodfellas — with a dash of Dallas, for flavor.
Despite some rather serious accusations, nothing really came of the cartel investigation. We were beginning to wonder if it was much ado about nothing. But Germany’s antitrust officials hadn’t forgotten — they were simply biding their time during preliminary investigations into corporate collusion and price-fixing. Earlier this week, they made their big move and raided BMW’s headquarters.
Mercedes-Benz Hasn't Escaped the Diesel Dragnet
After staying relatively clean in the ongoing diesel emissions scandal that’s keeping European automakers up at night, Mercedes-Benz now finds itself the potential target of an Environmental Protection Agency investigation, Automotive News Europe reports.
The EPA’s request for information targets the nitrous oxide emissions of the company’s Bluetec diesel engines, and comes less than two weeks after a class-action lawsuit was filed by law firm Hagens Berman (of General Motors ignition switch fame).
Yes, that sound you’re hearing is executives loosening their collars in Stuttgart.