In the latest chapter of the never-ending car emissions scandal that has engulfed a number of major German carmakers, the EU has opened an investigation into possible collusion between BMW, Daimler and the VW group on clean emission technology.
The European Commission announced 18 Sept that it had opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether BMW, Daimler and VW (Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche) colluded, in breach of EU antitrust rules, to avoid competition on the development and roll-out of technology to clean the emissions of petrol and diesel passenger cars.
"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,” explained commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy.
If proven, this collusion may have denied consumers the opportunity to buy less polluting cars, despite the technology being available to the manufacturers, she added.
In October 2017, the Commission carried out inspections at the premises of BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi in Germany as part of its initial inquiries into possible collusion between car manufacturers on the technological development of passenger cars.
The current in-depth investigation focuses on information indicating that BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche, also called the "circle of five", participated in meetings where they discussed inter alia the development and deployment of technologies to limit harmful car exhaust emissions.
In particular, the Commission is assessing whether the companies colluded to limit the development and roll-out of certain emissions control systems for cars sold in the European Economic Area.
Those systems included selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technologies to reduce harmful nitrogen oxides emissions from passenger cars with diesel engines; and 'Otto' particulate filters (OPF) to reduce harmful particulate matter emissions from passenger cars with petrol engines.
The investigation will aim to establish whether the conduct of BMW, Daimler and VW may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices, including agreements to limit or control technical development.
At this stage, the Commission has no indications that the parties coordinated with each other in relation to the use of illegal defeat devices to cheat regulatory testing.
The Commission will carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority.