The suspicion was borne out: the car makers Volkswagen (VW), Audi, Porsche, Daimler and BMW are reported to have coordinated in relation to technology, suppliers and costs and formed a kind of car cartel.
The German automobile industry could be faced with a huge scandal following a report by the news magazine “Der Spiegel”. According to this, the car manufacturers Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen as well as VW’s subsidiaries Porsche and Audi have been regularly coordinating through different working groups on various issues since the 90s. The arrangements are said to pertain to suppliers and costs in addition to technical issues.
Another issue reportedly addressed by the working groups was exhaust gas purification. According to the report, there may have been coordination regarding the size of what are referred to as “AdBlue tanks”. The car manufacturers involved are said to have opted for smaller tanks to save on costs and space. This might, however, have made it difficult to maintain emission values within acceptable limits when on the road. The fact that VW made use of manipulative software has been known since the emissions scandal came to light, with shareholders having since experienced a collapse in share prices. It remains possible until the beginning of September for them to join the model case proceedings in order to assert damages claims.
If it turns out that the car makers did in fact enter into these kinds of arrangements, they may have thereby substantially hindered competition and thus violated applicable competition and antitrust laws.
We at the commercial law firm GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte note that the European Commission already imposed a fine last year of just under three billion euros against the truck cartel on account of illegal arrangements. If the suspicion bears out that VW, BMW and Daimler entered into illegal arrangements, the cartel members could be faced with a significant fine. Moreover, those aggrieved by the cartel, such as suppliers, competitors and clients, can assert claims for damages. Notwithstanding this, the cartel authorities’ investigations are expected to drag on over a long period of time.
Those who have been affected by the alleged cartel can turn to lawyers who are experienced in the field of antitrust law to protect their interests.