The European Commission has accused BMW, VW, and Daimler of colluding to restrict competition on the development of technology to reduce emissions from polluting vehicles.

The Commission’s preliminary view is that the three motor manufacturers participated in a collusive scheme to limit the roll-out of emissions-cleaning technology for new diesel and petrol passenger cars sold in the European Economic Area (EEA) between 2006 and 2014.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said companies can co-operate in many ways to improve the quality of their products but “not to do the exact opposite”.

“We are concerned that this is what happened in this case and that Daimler, VW and BMW may have broken EU competition rules. As a result, European consumers may have been denied the opportunity to buy cars with the best available technology. The three car manufacturers now have the opportunity to respond to our findings.”

The EU accuses the companies of colluding through so-called “circle of five” technical meetings to restrict development of two specific systems:

Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems to reduce harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions of diesel passenger cars.

  • “Otto” particle filters (OPFs) to reduce harmful particle emissions from the exhaust gases of petrol passenger cars with direct injection.

  • The three manufacturers, whose car brands include Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche, and BMW, stress that the EU review is about possible violations of competition law and not emissions control systems.

A spokesperson for Daimler said the company has been co-operating with the Commission. “We are aware that a statement of objections has been issued and are awaiting formal notification.”

In a statement, BMW said: “The BMW Group is committed to responsible and lawful conduct as the basis for all its business activities. The company has established a comprehensive compliance management system to ensure compliance with applicable legislation, including the provisions of antitrust law.”

A spokesperson from Volkswagen said: “The Commission is investigating if antitrust violations in connection with the development and introduction of SCR systems and “Otto” particulate filters occurred for passenger cars which were sold in the EEA. The Commission also sees no evidence of a connection between these proceedings and the allegations regarding the use of illegal defeat devices.”

The EU said the investigation is separate and distinct from other ongoing investigations, including those by public prosecutors and other authorities into car manufacturers and the use of illegal defeat devices to cheat regulatory testing.

Last reviewed 11 April 2019