BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen are investigated over emission collusion claims

The German car giants allegedly held secret meetings to prevent a pollution-limiting tech war

(Image credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

BMW, the Volkswagen Group and the Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler are to be investigated over claims that they colluded in order to avoid a development war over emission-limiting technology.

The European Commission revealed on Tuesday that it had been informed that the motoring groups, along with VW’s Audi and Porsche brands, held private meetings to discuss “clean technologies aimed at limiting car exhaust emissions”, Sky News reports.

The commission’s investigation is seeking to establish whether the carmakers agreed not to compete in the development and introduction of systems that could limit vehicle emissions, the broadcaster says.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Competition Commissioner, said: “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.”

The EU does allow rival companies to collaborate on projects, but the European Commission’s concern is that the German carmakers worked together to prevent new technologies from being developed, The Sun says.

All of the car firms have released statements following the commission’s announcement.

BMW says it is “wholeheartedly committed to the principles of market economics and fair competition”. The statement has been echoed by Daimler.

The VW Group also said it would cooperate with the commission, but added that the investigation was a “purely procedural step in the process, which was fully expected by Volkswagen”, Auto Express reports.

If the companies are found guilty, there could be significant ramifications.

“Cartel action is frowned upon in Brussels,” says BBC business corespondent Theo Leggett. “Fines can run into the hundreds of millions – if not billions – of euros.”

“Since the scandal over emissions cheating at Volkswagen erupted three years ago, any hint that manufacturers may have been sabotaging efforts to produce cleaner cars has gone down very badly – especially in Germany”, Leggett adds.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.