Cartel Suspicions

Carmakers May Have Colluded

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    German automakers are already embroiled in emissions cheating scandals. But now, allegations of antitrust violations are surfacing.

  • Facts


    • The website of the German magazine Der Spiegel reported Friday that major German automakers have admitted to antitrust authorities that they have colluded on pricing and technology in a way that may have violated antitrust rules.
    • European antitrust authorities are already examining a 2010 Audi document that suggests German automakers across the industry committed to using only small tanks of AdBlue in their diesel vehicles, despite the fact that the smaller tanks would have resulted in higher emissions of harmful pollutants.
    • AdBlue is a urea-water mixture that neutralizes harmful nitrogen oxide emissions. It has long been considered the key to “clean diesel” technology, but German automakers appear to have been unwilling to use enough of the fluid in their cars because of the downsides, both in terms of space and cost, that larger AdBlue tanks would have entailed.
  • Audio


  • Pdf
69510626 car execs DPA BIG
Germany's big three car executives: Daimler's Dieter Zetsche, BMW's Harald Krüger and VW's Matthias Müller. Source: DPA

Major German automakers have admitted to anti-trust regulators that they have been cooperating since the 1990’s in a manner that potentially violated antitrust rules, discussing costs, suppliers and technology, according to report by the website of the German magazine, Der Spiegel. The revelations could signal the beginning of one of the biggest cartel cases in German history.

The report comes on the heels of Handelsblatt’s own investigation showing that the European Union’s competition watchdog is examining whether German automakers worked together to harmonize systems used to rid diesel exhaust of harmful pollutants. The potential antitrust violations come at a time when German carmakers already on the defensive as international investigations into emissions cheating progress.

All major German carmakers were involved in potentially illicit cooperation – Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-maker Daimler, according to Der Spiegel, which cited confessions VW and Daimler filed with antitrust regulators. More than 200 employees are said to have been involved.

The German carmakers declined to comment to the magazine. Politicians, however, are clearly watching closely.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.