EU antitrust officials carried out a raid this week at the offices of a German carmaker, the European Commission said on Friday. 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. More details are awaited.
German automaker Daimler AG confirmed on Friday that it has applied for the status of principal witness in the European Union's (EU) probe of allegations that German carmakers formed an illegal cartel. Daimler would be immune from any fines arising from the cartel scandal if it succeeded with its application to officially cooperate with EU competition authorities. Whether the EU will open a formal investigation into the case still remains unclear at this stage.
"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 respects the rights of defense, in particular the right of companies to be heard, in antitrust proceedings," EU said in a statement.
The statement added, "There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the companies concerned co-operate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defense."
Daimler chief financial officer said, "It principally concerns coordination in breach of antitrust legislation which was discussed in the press a while ago."
Spiegel magazine reported the allegations of illegal collusion in July, adding to the woes of a German automotive industry struggling to recover from the ongoing diesel gate scandal.
Leading carmakers including Porsche, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz stand accused of holding illicit meetings since the 1990s to coordinate vehicle technology, cost, suppliers, markets and strategy. If the allegations prove true they would amount to one of the largest antitrust cases in German economic history.
According to media reports, Porsche's mother corporation Volkswagen had also attempted to apply for the principal witness status but was beaten to it by Daimler.
Daimler also presented its business figures for the third quarter (Q3) of 2017 on Friday.
The expense of retro-fitting diesel vehicles affected by the emissions cheating scandal was shown to have weighed on the Stuttgart-based firm's earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) which shrunk by 14 percent to 3.45 billion euros (4.08 billion U.S. dollars) between July and September.
Retro-fitting measures which Daimler has agreed to for three million Mercedes-Benz vehicles hereby cost the firm 223 million euros alone in Q3. Nevertheless, revenue grew by six percent to a total of 40.8 billion euros.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche voiced confidence that the company was performing well and was hence in a good position to commence a recently-announced corporate restructuring process.