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EU launches probe into German carmakers

September 18, 2018

EU regulators have opened a probe into whether several German carmakers colluded to hold back the roll-out of car emission control systems. It is the latest in a string of investigations into such alleged malpractices.

car exhaust
Image: picture-alliance/A. Stein/JOKER

The European Commission said on Tuesday that a probe will look into whether the German automakers BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and VW units Audi and Porsche agreed not to compete with each other in developing and introducing technology to lower pollution from gasoline and diesel passenger cars.

The Commission, which acts as the EU's antitrust watchdog, said it had received information that the five German automakers — the so-called "Circle of Five" — had held meetings to discuss limiting car exhaust emissions at the testing stages.  

Read more: Opinion: Cartel of cheats

Der Spiegel magazine first published the allegations in 2017.

The probe is focused on diesel emission control systems involving the injection of urea solution into exhausts to remove harmful nitrogen oxides.

'Diesel engine will be phased out'

The probe is also looking at possible collusion over filters for cars with gasoline engines.

"If proven, this collusion may have denied consumers the opportunity to buy fewer polluting cars, despite the technology being available to the manufacturers," said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Read moreGerman Environment Ministry pushes for tough CO2 cuts, electric cars

The Commission said there was no evidence the companies had colluded to develop so-called "defeat devices," computer software that illegally turns off emissions controls. It also said it did not see the need to look into other areas of cooperation among the automakers, such as quality and safety testing, the speed at which convertible roofs can open and at which cruise control works.

The Commission can fine companies up to 10 percent of their annual turnover if it finds them to be in breach of EU competition rules.

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jbh/rr (dpa, AP)

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