Cartel probe looms over German auto industry

The Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg | Adam Berry  Getty Images

The Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg | Adam Berry Getty Images

The European Commission reiterated Monday it is examining new allegations that a club of German carmakers colluded on specifications for hardware key to purifying engine exhausts, and showed how seriously it is taking the case by appointing a vice president to oversee the sprawling automotive emissions scandal puzzle. BMW maintains that its tanks are small because its vehicles consume less DEF than vehicles from other manufacturers, and says the talks with other automakers were in regards to tanking infrastructure in Europe. Auto shares have been under pressure in the wake of the report in Der Spiegel.

Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Porsche and Daimler are under investigation by the European Union and German authorities for forming a secret "economic cartel" in the 1990s to collude on diesel emissions, after Daimler blew the whistle, media reported Monday.

The residents of Florida, New Jersey and the District of Columbia, said the companies illegally shared information on costs, suppliers, markets, emissions equipment and other competitive matters.

BMW Group, meanwhile, said that it "categorically rejects accusations" that its vehicles are manipulated to violate legal requirements.

Volkswagen reportedly denounced to the anti-cartel authorities in July 2016 in the hope of obtaining some leniency from the gendarmes of the competition, according to the magazine. Daimler may have also sold more than 1 million illegally rigged diesels in the USA and Europe. BMW is offering software updates on 350,000 of its older diesels.

German automakers plan to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel's government on August 2 for a so-called Diesel Summit to discuss the future of the technology, which employs tens of thousands of people in Germany.

"Diesel is worth fighting for", Zetsche declared after Daimler unveiled its second-quarter profit amid a growing debate about diesel's future as Germany's emissions scandal widened.

After Volkswagen (VW) admitted nearly two years ago to cheating emissions tests, the entire auto industry has come under scrutiny for the nitrogen oxide emissions produced by diesel cars, which are blamed for causing respiratory diseases.

Last year, a USA court ordered VW to pay a $14.7bn (£12bn) settlement over the scandal.

Justice Department officials are apparently diving into an investigation of German automakers Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and BMW on suspicion of collusion and price-fixing. In those cases, engine control software turned off emission controls at certain temperatures to avoid engine damage.

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