The European Commission fines BMW and Volkswagen Group a total $1bn (£726m), saying that three German carmakers breached EU antitrust rules by restricting competition in emission cleaning for new passenger diesel cars.
The EU executive said the trio – BMW, Volkswagen Group and Daimler – had colluded on technical development in the area of nitrogen oxide cleaning, but Daimler was the only carmaker that escaped a fine because it had revealed the existence of the cartel.
“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 to compete on using this technology’s full potential to clean better than what is required by law,” said EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager, according to Reuters.
“So today’s decision,” she continued, “is about how legitimate technical cooperation went wrong. And we do not tolerate it when companies collude.”
Volkswagen said it was considering taking legal action against the fine. The German carmaker said the penalty 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,” the German carmaker said in response to the fine.
BMW settled an EU antitrust investigation with €373m (£320m) and says it has been cleared of suspicion of cheating emissions tests.
The settlement was proposed by the European Commission to end an investigation into BMW’s alleged use of illegal ‘defeat devices’ to manipulate emission tests.
The German carmaker said it had paid the fine over collusion on setting standards for the Adblue additive used in diesel cars but that other charges, related to emissions technology, were dropped.
“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.
BMW also said that the Adblue talks took place ten years ago and “had no influence whatsoever on the company’s product decisions”.