BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche are all facing fines from the European Union after the EU revealed on Thursday that the automakers broke antitrust laws by conspiring to defeat pollution systems.
According to the EU, the carmakers exchanged commercially sensitive information between 2009 and 2014 in an attempt to postpone carbon-cutting technology, especially “technical development in the area of nitrogen oxide cleaning.”
“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.”
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.
The EU said the Volkswagen Group, which includes VW, Audi and Porsche, will pay $594 million in fines and BMW $441 million.
BMW originally stated that it would contest the accusations, but later agreed to cooperate.
As part of the agreement, the manufacturers committed to purchase and deploy AdBlue technology, which injects a component into diesel exhaust to reduce carbon emissions.
The EU sanctions have nothing to do with Volkswagen’s wider emissions testing scandal, in which the German manufacturer placed a “defeat device” on some diesel vehicles, allowing the vehicles to comply emissions rules during testing but exceed permissible limits 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.”