It's claimed that the makers decided together to breach EU competition rules in order to "limit the development and roll-out of emission cleaning technology for new diesel and petrol cars sold in the European Economic Area".
The scheme is alleged to have limited the inclusion of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems and petrol particulate filters on cars sold in Europe between 2006 and 2014.
In handing down a preliminary verdict, the Commission accused BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen of “blocking innovation and denying customers the opportunity to buy more environmentally friendly vehicles”.
Daimler stated: “We are aware that a statement of objections has been issued and are awaiting formal notification. Daimler has been co-operating extensively with the European Commission as leniency applicant already at an early stage and does not expect to receive a fine in this matter”.
While the three car makers are invited to respond to the findings, big penalties could still be issued. The fine for breaking competition law is up to 10% of a company's annual turnover, and it can be based on the turnover of the group to which the company belongs “if the parent of that group exercised decisive influence over the operations of the subsidiary during the infringement period”.
The BMW Group, Daimler and the Volkswagen Group posted respective turnovers of €97 billion (£83.4bn), €167 billion (£143.5bn) and €174 billion (£149.5bn) in 2018.
Lawrence Allan and Greg Kable