BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen probed by European Commission over emissions collusion allegations

Probe will look at whether firms discussed limiting the development of technology to cut harmful emissions

Ben Chapman
Tuesday 18 September 2018 13:26
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If the allegations are proven, the companies may have denied consumers the chance to buy less polluting cars
If the allegations are proven, the companies may have denied consumers the chance to buy less polluting cars

BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen are being investigated over allegations they colluded to avoid competition in developing technology to reduce harmful emissions.

The European Commission's in-depth probe focuses on information indicating that BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen - which owns Audi and Porsche - participated in meetings where they discussed limiting the development of the technology.

The devices include those to cut harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate emissions from diesel engines.

If the allegations are proven, the companies may have denied consumers the chance to buy less polluting cars, the Commission said.

Volkswagen has been at the centre of an emissions scandal since it admitted in 2015 to the widespread use of “defeat devices” to cheat tests by making its cars seem less polluting than they were. A number of other manufacturers have since been found to have used similar software.

Harmful pollutants from diesel cars have reduced air quality, contributing to tens of thousands of deaths, scientists say.

In October 2017, the Commission raided the premises of BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi in Germany as part of its initial inquiries.

An in-depth probe will now aim to establish whether the companies' conduct may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, said: “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.“

Ugo Taddei, a lawyer for ClientEarth said evidence of the "central role" car manufacturers are playing in creating an air pollution crisis was building.

“Yet, national authorities keep folding under the pressure of the auto lobby and dragging their feet rather than ordering corrective actions," he said.

“These latest revelations tell us that the technology has been there for many years to reduce harmful emissions from vehicles, but the industry has been resistant to change. And this is still clearly going on.

"Manufacturers are lobbying the German Federal Government to oppose the roll-out of effective retrofits for diesel vehicles. It’s high time national authorities put the health of citizens first.

"Car manufacturers must be held accountable for their wrongdoings.”

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