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EU fines 4 automakers $1 billion for colluding as part of emissions 'cartel'

By Kyle Barnett
1/5
EU fines 4 automakers $1 billion for colluding as part of emissions 'cartel'
The EU fines are not related to the larger emissions testing scandal involving Volkswagen, in which the automaker installed a device on certain vehicles that allowed them to meet emissions regulations during testing but exceed legal levels on the road. File Photo by Clemens Bilan/EPA-EFE

July 8 (UPI) -- BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche all face fines from the European Union after the bloc announced Thursday that the automakers violated antitrust laws by colluding to circumvent emissions technologies.

The EU said the carmakers swapped commercially sensitive information between 2009 and 2014 in an attempt to delay technologies to curb carbon emissions -- specifically, on "technical development in the area of nitrogen oxide cleaning."

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"The five car manufacturers Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche possessed the technology to reduce harmful emissions beyond what was legally required under EU emission standards," European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said in a statement Thursday.

"But they avoided to compete on using this technology's full potential to clean better than what is required by law."

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Vestager added that the automakers engaged in anti-competitive behavior through their actions.

"[Our] decision is about how legitimate technical cooperation went wrong. And we do not tolerate it when companies collude. It is illegal under EU Antitrust rules," she noted.

The EU said Daimler was also involved, but won't face penalties because it reported the "cartel" to authorities in the 27-member bloc.

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The EU said the Volkswagen Group, which includes VW, Audi and Porsche, will pay $594 million in fines and BMW $441 million.

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BMW previously said that it would fight the charges, but signed an agreement to comply.

As part of a settlement, the automakers have agreed to buy and implement AdBlue technology -- which puts a component into diesel exhaust to reduce carbon emissions.

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The EU fines are not related to the larger emissions testing scandal involving Volkswagen, in which the German automaker installed a "defeat device" on certain diesel vehicles that allowed the automobiles to meet emissions regulations during testing but exceed legal levels on the road.

Volkswagen has paid more than $40 billion to date over matters related to the cheating scandal.

"Competition and innovation on managing car pollution are essential for Europe to meet our ambitious Green Deal objectives," Vestager added. "And this decision shows that we will not hesitate to take action against all forms of cartel conduct putting in jeopardy this goal."

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