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BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen face collusion investigation in Europe

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The European Commission opened an inquiry Tuesday into possible collusion among BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen to prevent the development of clean emissions technology.

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The European Commission opened an inquiry Tuesday into possible collusion among BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen to prevent the development of clean emissions technology.

[BRUSSELS] Germany's biggest carmakers were already facing public criticism after an emissions cheating scandal at Volkswagen. Now, they are under formal investigation.

The European Commission opened an inquiry Tuesday into possible collusion among BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen to prevent the development of clean emissions technology. The investigation adds to a series of problems for the German auto industry, the country's biggest employer and exporter, which is grappling with the consequences of Volkswagen's diesel deception, as well as a long-term shift toward electric vehicles and the threat of auto tariffs from the United States.

The announcement by the commission, the European Union's executive arm, comes nearly a year after officials searched the German automakers' offices as part of an initial inquiry into possible price fixing. The commission said Tuesday that it had information indicating that the companies had participated in meetings where they discussed technology to limit harmful emissions. The investigation will try to establish whether the automakers sought to limit the development or rollout of systems to reduce harmful nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel cars or filters to reduce emissions from gasoline engine cars.

"These technologies aim at making passenger cars less damaging to the environment," Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said in a statement. "If proven, this collusion may have denied consumers the opportunity to buy less-polluting cars, despite the technology being available to the manufacturers."

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The commission said it had no information indicating that the companies had coordinated over the use of illegal defeat devices in regulatory testing. German carmakers meet routinely to discuss technical standards for components, but these discussions might be deemed illegal if they agree to limit competition in certain areas.

In its statement, the commission named the three major carmakers, as well as the Volkswagen luxury units Audi and Porsche, as part of the inquiry. All three companies said they would not be commenting on the case, but were cooperating with investigators.

The companies - the commission referred to them as the "circle of five" - have spent decades promoting diesel engines and are still struggling with the fallout of the emissions scandal in which some 11 million Volkswagen vehicles worldwide were fitted with illegal software that could detect when the cars were undergoing emissions tests.

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