By Anders Lorenzen
The European Commission has charged the German car giants BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler with blocking the rollout of clean emissions technology and thereby halting the uptake of electric vehicles. The charge reads that, between 2006 – 2014 the companies breached EU antitrust rules from by colluding to restrict competition on the development of technology to clean the emissions of petrol and diesel passenger cars.
The EU’s Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager believes the companies broke the EU’s competition rules: “Companies can cooperate in many ways to improve the quality of their products. However, EU competition rules do not allow them to collude on exactly the opposite: not to improve their products, not to compete on quality. 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 Commission was particularly concerned about two technologies: selective catalytic reduction (‘SCR’) systems & ‘Otto’ particle filters (‘OPF’). The first reduces harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions of diesel passenger cars, and the latter reduces harmful particle emissions from the exhaust gases in diesel passenger cars. In the case of both technologies, the Commission found that the companies had limited, resisted or at the very least delayed implementing them.
As a result, the Commission’s preliminary view is that the car manufacturers’ behaviour was aimed at restricting competition on innovation for these two emission cleaning systems and thus denied consumers the opportunity to buy less polluting cars despite the technology being available to the manufacturers.
It is unclear why the companies blocked these technologies other than new systems can often incur extra costs.
It’s just over three years since VW and other car companies were found to have cheated on emissions tests and this latest episode could also prove to be challenging for the companies involved. It is believed that EU fines could constitute as much as 10 per cent of a company’s global turnover.