EU fines 4 major German car manufacturers $1bn over emission collusion

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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The European Union (EU) handed down $1 billion in fines to four major German carmakers accusing that they breached EU antitrust rules by restricting competition in emission cleaning for new passenger diesel cars.

Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche avoided competing on technology to restrict pollution from gasoline and diesel passenger cars, the European Commission said. However, Daimler wasn’t fined after it revealed the cartel to the Commission.

Margrethe Vestager
Margrethe Vestager
Chief – EU Antitrust

“The five-car manufacturers Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche possessed the technology to reduce harmful emissions beyond what was legally required under EU emission standards. But they avoided competing on using this technology’s full potential to clean better than what is required by law. So today’s decision is about how legitimate technical cooperation went wrong. And we do not tolerate it when companies collude.”

Volkswagen said it was considering whether to take legal action against the fine, saying the penalty over technical talks about emissions technology with other carmakers set a questionable precedent.

“The Commission is entering new judicial territory because it is treating technical cooperation for the first time as an antitrust violation. Furthermore, it is imposing fines, although the content of the talks was never implemented and no customers suffered any harm as a result,” the German carmaker said after being fined $592 million.

BMW agreed to the settlement proposed by the European Commission, paying a $441 million fine, saying it had been cleared of suspicion of using illegal ‘defeat devices’ to cheat emissions tests.

“This underlines that there has never been any allegation of unlawful manipulation of emission control systems by the BMW Group,” the company said in a statement. 

It was the first time the European Commission imposed collusion fines on holding back the use of technical developments, not a more traditional practice like price-fixing.

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