Emission cleaning for diesel passenger cars. The Commission fines three manufacturers

On 8 July 2021, the Commission fined Daimler, BMW and the Volkswagen group (Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche) for breaching European antitrust rules by colluding on the development of the technology to clean the emissions of nitrogen oxide.

The decision follows the Statement of Objections sent to the companies involved in April 2019, and represents the first time the Commission qualifies a collusion on technical development as a cartel. More particularly, according to the Commission between 25 June 2009 and 1 October 2014 Daimler, BMW and the Volkswagen group held regular technical meetings to discuss the development of the selective catalytic reduction (SCR)-technology which eliminates harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx)-emissions from diesel passenger cars through the injection of urea (so-called “AdBlue”) into the exhaust gas stream, setting its tank sizes and ranges as well as reaching a common understanding on its average estimated consumption. This way, the companies exchanged commercially sensitive information, restricting competition on product characteristics relevant for the customers.

Therefore, since the conduct at issue constitutes an infringement by object in the form of a limitation of technical development, the Commission fined Daimler, BMW and the Volkswagen group a total of €875 million. On the basis of the 2006 Guidelines on fines, the Commission took into account, in particular, the value of the parties’ sales of diesel passenger cars equipped with SCR-systems in the European Economic Area (EEA) in 2013, the gravity of the infringement and the geographic scope. Furthermore, under the 2006 Leniency Notice Daimler received full immunity, while the Volkswagen group benefited from a reduction for its cooperation with the Commission during the investigation, and all the three companies were granted a further 10% reduction under the 2008 Settlement Notice for having acknowledged their participation in the cartel.

Marco Stillo