An explosive report published by the German newspaper Der Spiegel turned the automotive world upside down. Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen receive allegations on presumably meeting in secret to discuss “technology, costs, suppliers and exhaust gas purification of their diesel vehicles”, says the weekly publication.
The secret alliance based on anti-competitive behavior was disclosed by Volkswagen and Daimler in letters that ended up in the Der Spiegel newsroom. According to the report, the so-called Conspiring Five formed a secret cartel in the 1990s, regarding diesel emissions and eventually extended the topic. European Union antitrust regulators are investigating the cartel allegations, that might eventually determine in massive sanctions for the car makers. EU regulations say that whoever rats out first, can get away with a milder punishment or none at all, so the German government assumes there is only a question of time until their investigation will see first information revealed.
The meetings of the assumed colossal antitrust cartel were behind the 2015 Dieselgate that focused on Volkswagen installing a defeat software in more than half a million vehicles sold in the United States to cheat on emissions figures. The scandal ultimately cost the car maker tens of billions of dollars and legal fees, in which is regarded as the most shocking and expensive corporate scandals in the automotive history.
The secret meetings of the auto giants involve 200 employees. During the meetings, it is assumed that the automakers have colluded to fix prices of a diesel emission treatment called AdBlue, Der Spiegel reports. Volkswagen (owner of Porsche and Audi), Daimler (owner of Mercedes-Benz and smart) and BMW agreed to use tanks for the solution that counteracts emissions, that were too small. In 2008, they eventually agreed upon an 8-liter tank. According to the report, the cartel colluded on everything, from the soft-top of a convertible to the assessment of suppliers.
Volkswagen and Daimler declined to make any further comments, while BMW denies the allegations. This comes just a week after Daimler willingly announced a 3-million car recall for a software update designed to reduce diesel emissions. Audi also announced a 850,000-vehicle recall last Friday, intending to install a similar software on the company’s cars.