Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The European Union said Tuesday it is investigating German automakers for possibly colluding to limit development of emissions-saving technology on their vehicles.
The European Commission, the EU antitrust body, said it's investigating BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen for having discussions about limiting innovative systems to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions in diesel engines and particulate matter emissions from gasoline engines. The probe also includes Volkswagen subsidiaries Audi and Porsche.
"If proven, this collusion may have denied consumers the opportunity to buy less polluting cars, despite the technology being available to the manufacturers," EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
German automakers have been under scrutiny since Volkswagen was found to be rigging emissions tests on its diesel engines in 2015. More than 11 million Volkswagen cars were outfitted with software that could detect and cheat emissions tests. Investors are suing Volkswagen for $10 billion, saying the scandal should have been disclosed sooner.
After the Volkswagen scandal, the commission started looking for possible collusion among other German car makers to cheat emissions tests. It didn't find any, but did find evidence the automakers colluded to limit development of diesel and gas catalytic reduction systems.
Automakers meet routinely to discuss new technology, but it's illegal to discuss limiting competition in certain areas.
"The automotive industry was once a jewel in Europe's industrial crown," said Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at Transport and Environment, an advocacy group. "But it's global reputation is now deeply tarnished and cannot be trusted anymore."
The automakers confirmed the investigation and said they are cooperating. The probe into Daimler is limited to Europe.
The commission declined to comment on the potential penalty if the car makers are found to have acted illegally.