EU Officials Hit BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen Offices Over Cartel Allegations

European antitrust workers visit three German automakers regarding Dieselgate-related issues.

byRob Stumpf|
EU Officials Hit BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen Offices Over Cartel Allegations

It seems the Dieselgate scandal has no end in sight. European Union antitrust officials reportedly raided the offices of both Daimler and Volkswagen on Monday as part of an "announced visit" to further their investigations. This comes only a single business day after Reuters reported that officials visited BMW's headquaters regarding the same allegations of an elaborate collusion between German automakers.

Over the summer, a news source broke information regarding alleged collusion between German automakers, prompting a full-blown investigation by antitrust officials on behalf of the European Union. This "cartel" of automakers, which may have been operating in secrecy as early as the 1990s, has been accused of fixing the design and pricing of diesel engines and emission components, which ultimately helped lead to the emission cheating component used by Volkswagen that was discovered in 2015.

On Monday, Daimler told Reuters that a search of its facilities had been begun by commission officials. Last week, Daimler allegedly claimed "whistleblower status", which involved filing an application for immunity to avoid fines associated with the investigation. Per the EU, only the first whistleblower will receive immunity, which may have been the reasoning for the sudden influx of visitation from officials.

In addition to Daimler's pre-announced visit, Volkswagen AG also had several of its German offices visited by officials. This included its headquarters in Wolfsburg, as well as Audi's flagship office in Ingolstadt. EU officials reportedly examined documents which were pertinent to the investigation of the alleged cartel, but no further information was readily available regarding the extend of the search. 

The EU confirmed to Reuters that Daimler is cooperating under the leniency program, and that the commission had performed its first unannounced visit of an automaker as of last Monday.

"The inspections are related to Commission concerns that several German car manufacturers may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices", a statement from the European Commission said, effectively confirming that the cartel allegations are being actively inspected for any wrongdoings by the auto manufacturers.

Last week, officials reportedly visited BMW in regards to the investigation. Though BMW categorically rejects the allegations, officials are apparently conducting exhausting search efforts to find any wrongdoings. BMW released a statement confirming what it is calling an inspection to its offices in Munich, stating that it was aiding the commission in its work. 

Through investigation, antitrust officials will investigate if any applicable laws have been violated by any manufacturer implicated in the accusations surrounding the cartel behavior. Once determined, it will become more apparent if the collusion played a part in Volkswagen's ongoing Dieselgate scandal, or if the manufacturers indeed worked togetger to fix diesel design. 

At this time, allegations are relatively rudimentary and findings have not been reported to the public. No formal filing of proceedings has taken place as of yet.