EU truckmakers fined $3.2 billion over price collusion

Tue Jul 19, 2016 11:36am EDT
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By Foo Yun Chee and Laurence Frost

BRUSSELS/PARIS - EU regulators imposed a record fine of 2.9 billion euros ($3.2 billion) against Europe's biggest truckmakers on Tuesday for colluding over 14 years to fix prices and delay adoption of cleaner engine emissions technology.

Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) MAN, Daimler, Volvo, Iveco and DAF participated in an illegal cartel until 2011, the European Commission said. It launched its investigation that year after MAN blew the whistle, thereby escaping any penalty.

Like the VW diesel scandal it predates, the truckmakers' case exposed an industry conspiracy to reduce the cost of meeting restrictions on toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, with Germany once again at its heart.

The collusion, initiated by senior executives meeting at hotels and trade shows, was later delegated down the chain of command to be "organized at a lower level by the truck producers' subsidiaries in Germany", the European Commission, the EU's executive body, said after a five-year investigation.

Daimler was fined 1 billion euros, the biggest penalty, followed by 753 million euros for DAF, 670 million for Volvo and 495 million for Iveco, which at the time was part of Fiat. The companies have already taken accounting charges roughly matching the sanctions.

Truckmakers fixed vehicle prices to pass the costs of required improvements on to customers, shielding their profits, the investigation found.

The combined fine of 2.9 billion euros was more than twice the previous EU record - a 1.4 billion euro penalty imposed in 2012 against TV and monitor parts cartel.

"Today's decision underlines the importance of a functioning competitive market to foster the development and dissemination of cost-efficient low-emission technologies," the Commission said in a statement.   Continued...

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager holds a news conference at the EU Commission's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir