The European Commission has expanded its anti-trust probe into German car makers, raiding the headquarters of Volkswagen, Audi, and Daimler.
The investigation follows allegations that were made in July that there was a collusion between several manufacturers to fix the price of some technologies for decades.
The commission said that it had performed the inspections on the back of its worries that “several German car manufacturers may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.”
The statement did not name the companies that are involved. However, Daimler confirmed that an inspection had taken place at its headquarters in Stuttgart. The Mercedes-Benz maker said that it was applying for ‘leniency’ – a means that would allow the company to pay reduced fines in return for delivering evidence of collusion.
VW confirmed that investigators had visited its headquarters in Wolfsburg and that of the company’s Audi subsidiary in Ingolstadt, and said that it had been “cooperating fully and for a long time” with the European Commission. Asked whether they admitted their participation in the collusion, Audi and VW did not respond.
Last week, BMW confirmed that investigators had raided its headquarters in Munich. However, it said that no formal investigations had been initiated against the company.
In July, Der Spiegel, a German magazine, alleged that Daimler, VW, and Audi had been meeting secretly since the Nineties to collude on the cost of components and their use of suppliers.
The said investigation could lead to grave financial penalties, as European regulators have the authority to fine those that break cartel rules with as much as 10pc of their global turnover.
It is a fresh blow for the feted auto industry of Germany, which is still reeling from the admission of Volkswagen in 2015 that it installed ‘defeat devices’ in order to cheat regulatory emissions tests, a scandal that has already cost the company billions of euros in criminal fines.