BMW and Volkswagen fined €875m over emission-control collusion

Carmakers colluded on technical development over nitrogen oxide cleaning, says EU

Volkswagen said it was considering whether to take legal action against the fine. Photograph: iStock

The European Commission said on Thursday three German carmakers breached EU antitrust rules by restricting competition in emission cleaning for new passenger diesel cars, fining BMW and Volkswagen Group a total of €875 million.

The EU executive said the trio had colluded on technical development in the area of nitrogen oxide cleaning, but Daimler was not fined because it revealed the existence of the cartel.

"The five car manufacturers, Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche possessed the technology to reduce harmful emissions beyond what was legally required under EU emission standards. But they avoided [this] to compete on using this technology's full potential to clean better than what is required by law," said EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.

“So today’s decision is about how legitimate technical co-operation went wrong. And we do not tolerate it when companies collude.”

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Volkswagen said it was considering whether to take legal action against the fine, saying the penalty over technical talks about emissions technology with other carmakers set a questionable precedent.

“The commission is entering new judicial territory, because it is treating technical co-operation for the first time as an antitrust violation,” said the German carmaker after being fined €502 million.

“Furthermore it is imposing fines, although the content of the talks was never implemented and no customers suffered any harm as a result,” added Volkswagen.

BMW agreed to the settlement proposed by the European Commission, paying a €373million fine, saying it had been cleared of suspicion of using illegal “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests.

“This underlines that there has never been any allegation of unlawful manipulation of emission-control systems by the BMW Group,” said the company.