Antitrust probe

VW, Daimler inspected by EU as German car cartel probe widens

This file photo taken on May 19 shows the logo of German car maker Volkswagen (VW) outside the main administrative building of the Volkswagen brand at VW plant in Wolfsburg, central Germany.
This file photo taken on May 19 shows the logo of German car maker Volkswagen (VW) outside the main administrative building of the Volkswagen brand at VW plant in Wolfsburg, central Germany.
AFP

(Bloomberg) Volkswagen and Daimler were inspected by European Union (EU) antitrust investigators as the EU stepped up a probe into allegations the German car industry colluded on technology for decades.

Volkswagen said EU officials visited its Wolfsburg headquarters and its Audi unit's offices in Ingoldstadt, Germany.

Daimler received an "announced visit" from EU cartel investigators to its Stuttgart headquarters, spokeswoman Ute Wueest von Vellberg said by phone.

The European Commission said it carried out visits at the premises of several car manufacturers in Germany, accompanied by German antitrust officials.

The inspections come days after BMW said it was raided as part of the same probe.

"The Volkswagen Group and the Group brands concerned have been cooperating fully and for a long time with the European Commission and have submitted a corresponding application" that might allow it to receive a reduction in any eventual fines, the company said in an email.

"It is not yet clear whether the European Commission will instigate formal proceedings."

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in September that her officials were checking whether "completely legal cooperation" between German car companies is not being confused with an illegal cartel.

This file photo taken on September 13 shows people visiting the hall of German Volkswagen group including cars of VW, Audi and Seat at the Frankfurt Auto Show IAA in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
This file photo taken on September 13 shows people visiting the hall of German Volkswagen group including cars of VW, Audi and Seat at the Frankfurt Auto Show IAA in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
AFP

Her comments came after Germany's Der Spiegel reported in July that talks on technical standards between Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler may have allowed them to collude on pricing.

EU regulators are concerned that "several German car manufacturers may have violated EU antitrust rules", the EU said in an emailed statement.

It did not name the companies visited.

BMW said it was raided last week, in an inspection the EU said it started on October 16, as regulators step up a probe sparked earlier this year.

Reuters reported the Daimler visit earlier.

Inspections allow EU officials to gather evidence, armed with wide powers to collect documents and copy hard drives.

Companies can be fined if they seek to obstruct an antitrust inspection that can eventually lead to large fines for participating in a cartel to curb competition.

Daimler reported a possible cartel as part of the EU's leniency programme that allows firms to dodge fines for being the first in line to report wrongdoing, CFO Bodo Uebber said last week, confirming previous press reports.

The three carmakers worked together on a wide range of technology including discussing the size of tanks for AdBlue, a liquid that helps neutralise pollutants in diesel exhaust, according to Der Spiegel.

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