The European Union (EU) has slapped BMW and the Volkswagen Group with massive fines for colluding to limit the size of AdBlue diesel exhaust treatment tanks.
The combined €875 million ($1.39 billion) fine – €502 million for the Volkswagen Group, and €373 million for BMW – was reached as part of a settlement between the brands and the EU.
Daimler wasn’t fined despite being a part of the cartel, as it blew the whistle.
According to the EU, the German trio colluded to limit the size of AdBlue diesel exhaust treatment fluid tanks between 2006 and 2014.
Authorities alleged by limiting the size of the tanks, the carmakers were choosing to not make their cars cleaner despite possessing the technology to do so. The carmakers involved argue smaller tanks were “aimed at creating a customer-friendly AdBlue filling infrastructure”.
A statement from the BMW Group says the decision takes the EU into “uncharted waters”.
“The European Commission acknowledges that the proceedings now concluded by settlement represent uncharted territory for antitrust law. Price and territorial agreements were not the subject of this investigation,” it said in a statement.
“The European Commission nevertheless used the standards generally applied to ‘classic’ cartels of this kind to calculate the fine – with merely a certain reduction to reflect the unique nature of the case.”
BMW also highlighted the fact it has not used defeat devices to cheat emissions tests, unlike the Volkswagen Group and Daimler.
The EU investigation was launched in 2019, after a Der Spiegel report in 2017 revealed the practice.
“Since the 1990s, the German auto industry has been working in secret working groups to discuss the technology, costs, suppliers and even the emission control of its diesel vehicles,” the 2017 report alleged.
“At countless meetings they discussed how big the tanks should be for AdBlue, a urea mixture that is used to break down nitrogen oxides into the harmless components water and nitrogen,” the report alleged.
“Large tanks would have been more expensive. So the automakers agreed on small tanks. At some point, however, the amount of AdBlue contained in it was no longer sufficient to clean the exhaust gases sufficiently – it only helped to trick.”