European Union anti-trust regulators have raided more German automakers, days after they made a similar swoop on the offices of BMW. It’s a fresh blow to the country's beleaguered auto industry.
Less than a week after BMW's offices were raided, more German car manufacturers had their premises "inspected" by the European Commission on Monday, according to a statement that did not identify the companies.
The EU Commission, the bloc's executive arm, said the inspections were related to concerns "that several German car manufacturers may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices."
The statement stopped short of naming any companies by name, but it is believed at least two are affected by the latest raids.
The probe follows reports that German carmakers — including Volkwagen, BMW and whistlerblower Daimler — have been colluding on technology and pricing since the 1990s.
Daimler have been cooperating under the EU's ant-trust leniency program for whistleblowers and, thus, may escape a heavy fine that the other companies could be liable for, in what has descended into a "rat-out-race."
Luxury German carmaker BMW confirmed that European competition officials searched its headquarters in Munich last Friday.
The EU Commission's action comes after German media reports in July that BMW along with Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and Daimler had been members of a secret cartel since the 1990s that discussed emission controls and standards.
The revelations about the cartel came as the German car industry attempted to restore public trust after VW admitted just over two years ago to cheating on diesel emissions tests around the world.
"Inspections are a preliminary step in investigations of suspected anti-competitive practices," the commission said. "The fact that the commission carries out inspections does not mean that the inspected companies are guilty of anti-competitive behavior, nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself."
mds/hg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)