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EU regulators raid auto giant BMW in German cartel case

The bloc's anti-trust officials have searched the offices of the premium carmaker this week in a probe investigating BMW and four other German automobile firms for suspected anti-competitive practices. BMW confirmed on Friday that EU anti-trust regulators had searched its offices in Munich this week, after the European Commission had earlier in the day refused to name the company involved. The EU, in its statement, said that the inspection related to the Commission concerns that several German car manufacturers may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices. "Inspections are a preliminary step in investigations of suspected anti-competitive practices. The fact that the Commission carries out inspections does not mean that the inspected companies are guilty of anti-competitive behavior, nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself," the Commission added. A group of leading German carmakers including Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, BMW and Daimler stand accused of holding illicit meetings since the 1990s to coordinate vehicle technology, cost, suppliers, markets and strategy. Daimler comes clean In July, German media reported that the cartel's secret working groups hashed out and decided the most important details of the auto business, including the inadequate size of the AdBlue tanks that could not adequately feed their diesel cars' exhaust treatment. One of the aims of the cartel was to avoid "an arms race" of AdBlue tank sizes. Meanwhile, the cartel case has turned into a race for who rats out whom first. Luxury carmaker Daimler on Friday confirmed it had applied for the status of principal witness in the EU probe. Daimler chief financial officer (CFO) Bodo Uebber told journalists that the application "principally concerns coordination in breach of anti-trust legislation which was discussed in the press a while ago." As it was yet unclear whether the EU opened an official investigation into the carmaker, Daimler saw "no need presently to make financial provisions for any possible fines," Uebber added. Rat-out-race According to German media reports, Volkswagen had also attempted to apply for the principal witness status. But Daimler was first in coming clean with Germany's and Europe's cartel watchdogs, and it could avoid a multi-billion euro fine. Volkswagen's voluntary declaration is dated July 4, 2016, but Daimler's came significantly earlier. Still, Volkswagen could get a rebate on the punishment. BMW, one of the least suspicious in diesel emissions fixing, is kept holding the bag. BMW has said from the outset that there is nothing unusual in working with other carmakers on certain components if they "do not contribute to differentiation of the two brands and are therefore not relevant to competition." According to EU law, the first co-operating co-conspirator in an anti-trust matter could walk away unpunished. The second one to break the silence would get a maximum 50 percent rebate, but only if "evidence with considerable value-add" will be delivered.

The bloc’s anti-trust officials have searched the offices of the premium carmaker this week in a probe investigating BMW and four other German automobile firms for suspected anti-competitive practices. BMW confirmed on Friday that EU anti-trust regulators had searched its offices in Munich this week, after the European Commission had earlier in the day refused to name the company involved. ... Read More »

Ex-VW head Winterkorn resigns from Porsche Holding

Martin Winterkorn, who already stepped down as CEO of VW, has relinquished his position at its largest shareholder. He will be replaced by Hans Dieter Poetsch in November. Former Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn announced on Saturday that he was resigning from his position as chair of Porsche Holding Company. The embattled ex-CEO had already stepped down from VW at the end of September following revelations that the firm had cheated on emissions tests. Replacing the 68-year-old Winterkorn on November 1 will be Hans Dieter Poetsch, who is the new chairman of VW's supervisory board, in which Porsche Holding has the largest stake. On September 18, the US Environmental Protection Agency accused Volkswagen of having installed software on some of its vehicles that enabled them to circumvent air pollution standards, tarnishing the company's sterling reputation and embroiling it a scandal whose reverberations are still being felt. It was soon discovered that about 11 million vehicles had been affected worldwide. Potential fallout for employees On Saturday, VW's works council, the representative body for employees, told German news agency DPA that the firm would likely be forced to cut back on contracted workers as financial uncertainty loomed. "As the works council, we will support all possibilities to secure the jobs of our colleagues with temporary contracts," said a council spokesman. "We know that the board of directors is discussing other possibilities." Volkswagen employs around 600,000 workers globally, thousands of them on temporary contracts, according to the most recent figures.

Martin Winterkorn, who already stepped down as CEO of VW, has relinquished his position at its largest shareholder. He will be replaced by Hans Dieter Poetsch in November. Former Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn announced on Saturday that he was resigning from his position as chair of Porsche Holding Company. The embattled ex-CEO had already stepped down from VW at the ... Read More »

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