As environmental issues really grew up in the 1990s, some German automakers met in secret groups to make sure their cars continued to diligently contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the European Union, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW and the Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler have made illegal agreements to restrict competition in the emission control for new diesel cars, which essentially slows down the use of cleaner emission technologies. On Thursday the EU fined Volkswagen and BMW one billion US dollars (875 million euros) for their participation in the emissions cartel.
“The five car manufacturers Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche had the technology to reduce pollutant emissions beyond the legally prescribed level of EU emissions standards,” said the Executive Vice President of the EU Commission, Margrethe Vestager. “But they have avoided competing to use the full potential of this technology to clean better than the law requires. So today’s decision is about how legitimate tech collaboration went wrong. And we do not tolerate companies making agreements. It’s illegal under EU antitrust rules. Competition and innovation in the fight against pollution from cars are essential for Europe to achieve our ambitious Green Deal goals. And this decision shows that we will not hesitate to take action against all forms of cartel behavior that endanger this goal. “
All parties confirmed their participation and agreed on a settlement. Volkswagen, which owns Audi and Porsche, has to pay around $ 595 million, BMW $ 442 million. Daimler would have had to pay around 861 million US dollars, but the company bypasses fines as a whistleblower. So we suspect that Daimler will just get away with it?
BMW made a net profit of $ 4.62 billion last year, and VW made about $ 12.2 billion and nearly $ 23 billion in 2019, so this fine kind feels like a slap on the wrist. And let’s not forget that this was not the first time VW got caught up in an emissions scandal.
In 2015, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency VW filed a charge of violating the Clean Air Act for deliberately building software into its diesel engines to make it look like it was following emissions controls, when in fact its cars are far more than that than produced the legal amount.
In its lawsuit against the companies, the EU focused in particular on the agreement reached by the companies on the tank sizes for AdBlue, a solution that mixes with diesel car exhaust to neutralize harmful pollutants. The companies agreed not to compete with each other to make cleaner cars even though they had the technology.
Der Spiegel first spread the news about the cartel in 2017, and the companies started greenwashing. In the same year, all parties involved, as well as Ford Motor Company, came together to create a high-performance charging network for electric vehicles called Ionity. The plan was to build and operate around 400 charging stations across Europe by 2020, but it looks like Ionity only installed 300 across Europe and even increased the price of a charge by 500% last year.
Earlier this week, VW’s heavy truck division, the Traton Group, Daimler Truck and the Volvo Group joined forces to invest nearly $ 593 million in a network of public charging stations for long-distance electric heavy trucks and buses across Europe.