Currently reading: German car industry under EU cartel investigation
The EU has opened an investigation into claims that Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volkswagen colluded on software manipulation in secret diesel meetings
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2 mins read
21 July 2017

The diesel scandal surrounding Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volkswagen has taken a further twist with news that the EU has opened an investigation into claims the five German car makers worked together to set standards and collaborate on software manipulation methods for diesel engine development in secret meetings. One of these meetings allegedly took place on the sidelines of the 2010 Paris motor show, Autocar understands.

Acting on evidence provided by a former Volkswagen employee, the EU has opened the cartel investigation following claims that up to 200 employees from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volkswagen were involved in the secret, closed-door meetings. During these encounters, the German car makers are said to have swapped vital information on methods to circumnavigate test procedures for CO2 and particulate emissions as well as SCR (selective catalytic reduction) thermo switching, among other manipulations.    

Said to have taken place since the 1990s, the talks are also claimed to have involved a consensus on the size of AdBlue urea tanks, with Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volkswagen all agreeing to keep the tanks under a certain capacity to aid packaging compared with other car makers' diesel systems.

The decision to limit the size of AdBlue tanks, which are used to inject urea in exhaust after-treatment systems to lower tailpipe emissions, is said to be behind moves first introduced by the German car makers towards so-called thermo switching. In theory, this process would involve the SCR (selective catalytic reduction) tank being switched off both below and above certain temperatures to ensure the AdBlue mixture is not depleted, albeit at the expense of CO2 and particulate emissions.  

Audi said it won't be "commenting further until after the Diesel Summit involving the German government on August 2" while Mercedes-Benz said "please understand that we do not comment on speculation," and Volkswagen said "we have no comments to make on the speculation and conjecture".

A statement released by BMW said: "As a matter of principle: BMW Group vehicles are not manipulated and comply with respective legal requirements. Of course this also applies to diesel vehicles. Confirmation of this is provided by the results of relevant official investigations at the national and international level."

"From a BMW Group perspective, the objective of discussions with other manufacturers concerning AdBlue tanks was the installation of the required tanking infrastructure in Europe."

Read more: 

Bosch created Volkswagen Dieselgate cheat software, study alleges

VW emissions scandal: one year on

'Several hundred thousand' UK cars affected by Mercedes emissions software tweak

Autocar test shows worse economy after Volkswagen diesel fix

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scotty5 22 July 2017

autocar wrote:

autocar wrote:

...the EU has opened the cartel investigation following claims...

You really couldn't make this stuff up. One reason I voted 'leave' is because the EU is the biggest cartel of them all. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

steve-p 22 July 2017

The takeaway from this is

All diesels are inherently bad, even with the sticking plasters of DPFs and AdBlue treatment. At this rate, the diesel market is going to completely implode in the next year or so, for both new and used vehicle sales. Anyone buying a diesel now is taking a significant risk that they will take a bath when it comes to selling it on again. PCP purchases will take the worry out of that, but will also get a lot more expensive if used values continue to decline.

Cobnapint 22 July 2017

@max1e6, again

It's the clowns in the EU that need arresting - for setting ridiculously low, unobtainable emmision standards. They have shot themselves in the foot with this one. The US is going to take billions.

Blue Chill 22 July 2017

Well said.

Cobnapint wrote:

It's the clowns in the EU that need arresting - for setting ridiculously low, unobtainable emmision standards. They have shot themselves in the foot with this one. The US is going to take billions.

This has been exactly my thoughts since this rabid obsession with CO2 levels came in to the exclusion of all other environmental concerns. It's not just that the public had been coerced into diesels by lower tax, it's that the manfacturers were encouraged to focus their development budgets on making diesels more and more appealing by that mechanism coupled with the fleet-average CO2 rules.

I remember trying to buy a petrol Focus about 8 or so years back, and the franchised dealer was completely disinterested. Similarly with a petrol Golf. Asked both to source me a petrol model for a test drive and never heard back. Forecourts full of diesels though.

These EU emissions targets have been completely unrealistic and poorly thought through, and hobbled by EU safety regulations that lead (admittedly in combination with the public's desire for ever-higher specs, comfort and more space) to make cars ever heavier. Even the likes of BMW, Mercedes and VAG only have so much development budget to play with, and they need to turn some kind of profit.

Yes, the manufacturers (may) have been sneaky, but I suspect the Germans won't be alone here if there has been widespread cheating.