European car makers are grappling with another diesel emissions scandal, but this one has nothing to do with Dieselgate. Reuters reports the European Commission has fined BMW and Volkswagen a total of €875 million (just over $1 billion) for allegedly colluding in a way that limited technology for reducing diesel engines’ nitrogen oxide emissions. The two, along with whistleblower Daimler, supposedly agreed to avoid competing on emissions-reducing AdBlue urea injection tech in discussions held between 2009 and 2014.
BMW, Daimler and VW reached a deal on AdBlue tank sizes, ranges, and average consumption, and even shared “sensitive” technical details with each other, the Commission claimed. This reportedly halted competition and stopped the trio from realizing the “full potential” of their emissions-reducing tech. They might have cleaned diesel output beyond EU requirements, but apparently chose not to.
All three have agreed to settle the case. Daimler had been facing a €727 million ($861.5 million) fine if it hadn’t disclosed the behavior. VW also received leniency for its level of cooperation.
Commission Executive VP Margrethe Vestager noted that this was a novel case — it was the first time the regulator determined that collusion on technical development produced an illegal cartel. To that end, officials offered guidance on cooperation that wouldn’t run afoul of antitrust rules, such as developing a unified AdBlue software system.
That pioneering conclusion might cause problems, however. VW said in a statement that it was considering a possible appeal against the fine for allegedly setting a dangerous precedent in unfamiliar territory. The automaker also maintained that the substance of the discussions was “never implemented” and that customers never suffered as a consequence. It’s not certain VW would succeed with an appeal, but the fight could be far from over.
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