The European Commission has launched what it has termed an “in-depth investigation” to determine whether BMW, Daimler and the Volkswagen Group colluded to avoid competing against each other in developing emission reduction technology.
The Commission says that such an agreement would be in breach of European Union antitrust rules. The launch of the investigation follows warranted inspections of BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi premises in Germany in October last year.
Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner 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.”
In a statement, the Commission said the investigation would centre on whether officials from BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche – termed the ‘circle of five’ – took part in meetings during which they colluded to limit the development and introduction of a number of emissions control systems – mainly selective catalytic reduction systems and ‘Otto’ particulate filters – for cars sold in the European Economic Area.
That would breach Article 101 of the Treaty of Functioning of the European Union, which prohibits business practices that limit control of technical development.The Commission said that it had “no indications” that the firms involved colluded with each other in the sort of illegal defeat devices Volkswagen was found guilty of using in the dieselgate scandal.