VW, BMW Fined €875 Million Over Diesel Emissions Collusion

By Paul Riegler on 8 July 2021
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A Volkswagen diesel-powered engine in a 2015 Golf TDI

The European Commission Thursday hit Volkswagen and BMW with €875 million ($1 billion) in fines after finding that the German automakers had colluded to hinder competition in emissions systems for diesel-powered automobiles.

The decision encompassed VW’s Audi and Porsche units as well.

The EU’s investigation came in the wake of the VW Dieselgate scandal in which VW and other automakers used software to skirt clean-air laws, making its cars appear to be less polluting than they actually were.

The Commission alleged that the automakers had held technical meetings in the period 2009 through 2014 that violated EU antitrust rules because the companies agreed to not enter into competition to develop the best emissions systems for their diesel-powered vehicles. Instead, they agreed to merely fulfill the minimum required by the bloc.

“These car makers illegally colluded to restrict competition on emissions cleaning technology in diesel cars,” Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner for competition, said to reporters after the decision was announced, “Today’s case is about how legitimate cooperation has gone wrong.”

BMW agreed to pay a fine of €373 million, while Volkswagen will pay €502 million.

Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler was originally one of the automakers that would have been charged with the anti-trust violation, but received immunity after it agreed to act as a kind of whistleblower for the investigation.  By taking this course, it avoided a fine of €727, the Commission said.

 

 

BMW said in a statement that it had decided to settle with the Commission after it agreed to drop additional antitrust charges.  The Bavarian automaker said it had never illegally manipulated emissions-control systems and that the meetings with other manufacturers were merely to create a customer-friendly emissions system.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen said that “[T]he Commission is breaking new legal ground with this decision, because it is the first time it has prosecuted technical cooperation as an antitrust violation,” adding that “it is also imposing fines even though the contents of the talks were never implemented and customers were therefore never harmed.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)