EU targets BMW, Daimler, VW over anti-pollution technology

EU antitrust regulators are investigating whether these companies colluded to restrict the rollout of clean emission technology

Photo: EPA

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into whether German automakers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen Group (Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche) breached EU antitrust rules by colluding to avoid competition on the development and roll-out of technology to clean the emissions of petrol and diesel passenger cars. The move marks a fresh blow to the scandal-hit industry three years after the notorious 'Dieselgate' scandal.

 "The Commission is investigating whether BMW, Daimler and VW agreed not to compete against each other on the development and roll-out of important systems to reduce harmful emissions from petrol and diesel passenger cars. These technologies aim at making passenger cars less damaging to the environment. If proven, this collusion may have denied consumers the opportunity to buy less polluting cars, despite the technology being available to the manufacturers," Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said.

The Commission's in-depth investigation focusses on information indicating that BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche, also called the "circle of five", participated in meetings where they discussed inter alia the development and deployment of technologies to limit harmful car exhaust emissions. 

The latest case, however, does not involve the so-called "defeat devices" that VW installed in millions of its diesel vehicles around the world to cheat emissions tests, but instead focuses on the development of state-of-the-art control systems that reduce smog-causing pollution, such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. In particular, the Commission is assessing whether the companies colluded to limit the development of certain emissions control systems for cars sold in the European Economic Area, namely SCR systems and 'Otto' particulate filters.

Te probe comes after in 2017, Germany’s Spiegel magazine reported that "circle of five" had been coordinating their activities concerning diesel emissions controls, costs, development strategies and suppliers since the 1990s. In October the same year, the EU Commission carried out inspections at the premises of BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi in Germany as part of its initial inquiries into possible collusion between car manufacturers on the technological development of passenger cars.  
Volkswagen and Daimler, which has claimed whistleblower status to avoid any fines, said they were cooperating with the Commission. BMW said it would continue to support the EU authority.
If companies are found guilty, they can face fines up to 10 percent of their global turnover for breaching EU rules. 

Similar articles