The European Union's competition watchdogs are convinced that Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler have reached an illegal agreement among themselves on the subject of exhaust gas purification. The three most important German automobile companies are threatened with fines running into the billions.
Two years have passed since the news magazine Der Spiegel carried out its research, and now the EU Commission has largely confirmed the report. On the basis of a preliminary result, the Commission announced that VW, Daimler and BMW were guilty of illegal agreements. These agreements concern the area of exhaust gas cleaning technology. The three companies are accused of having restricted competition for innovation in this field in Europe through their unlawful cooperation, thus depriving consumers of the opportunity to buy more environmentally friendly vehicles - even though the technology was available to do so.
If the allegations were confirmed, Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW would have violated European antitrust law. However, the Commission does not blame the three companies for possible breaches of the environmental regulations themselves.
High penalties on the cards for VW, Daimler and BMW
If the carmakers are found guilty, they face fines in the billions. Daimler cooperated early and comprehensively with the European Commission as a key witness and therefore does not expect a fine in this case: "the company stated. According to VW's assessment, the Commission 'recognizes in principle that cooperation between manufacturers on technical issues in the automotive industry is common worldwide."
In addition to Daimler, Volkswagen had already applied for leniency. If such a crown witness participates in the antitrust proceedings, it can hope for a significant reduction in the fine or even impunity. In the worst case, however, up to 10 percent of the worldwide annual turnover could be due.
The accused companies will now examine the allegations and then decide on further steps.