While Europe appears infinitely suspicious of German automakers, it hasn’t been nearly as eager to cuff suspects and cart them off to the slammer. Considering how unappealing Japan’s treatment of a former Nissan employee happened to be with the general public (regardless of his guilt/innocence), that’s probably wise. Slow and sure is the ideal strategy for tackling corporate corruption — it just has the unfortunate consequence of dragging everything out.
In 2018, BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen Group became the focus of an investigation aimed at uncovering illegal cooperation. Allegations going back to 2017 stipulated the three had coordinated on the rollout of clean emissions technology (specifically AdBlue); at the same time, Germany was under heavy scrutiny for the leeway it was giving automakers after VW’s diesel emission scandal. Before long, claims arose that Germany’s manufacturers had been effectively running an automotive cartel for decades, with supporting evidence slowly mounting.
Following an earlier raid at BMW, Daimler AG and Volkswagen Group were also searched by antitrust officials from the European Union Commission and German government this week. Despite claiming whistleblower status, Daimler is still subject to investigation — though it’s less likely to incur the same financial penalties if the collusion charges go to court.
Over the summer, investigators from the EU stated there would be an investigation into several German carmakers after allegations surfaced that companies conspired to fix prices on various automotive technologies over several decades. But it wasn’t until Monday that officials searched Daimler’s corporate offices and collected documents from Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg and at Audi’s home base in Ingolstadt.
Leaked documents linked to the United Auto Workers battle for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. point to a connection between Governor Bill Haslam and the German automaker regarding a $300 million incentive in exchange for over 1,300 jobs at a proposed SUV plant within the state.