FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) -- European Union regulators will continue a crackdown on supplier cartels in the auto sector by penalizing several suppliers found guilty of price fixing, Europe's antitrust chief, Joaquin Almunia, said today,
For the past five years, competition watchdogs from the United States, Europe and across Asia have uncovered multiple cartels, handing out record fines in some cases, and calling time on a business model that has served suppliers well.
Auto parts makers, in particular those from Japan, have colluded for years to inflate parts prices for automakers, dealers and repair shops in a global market with annual sales of more than 80 million vehicles and now exposed in a worldwide sweep by regulators.
European Competition Commissioner Almunia, who has handed down more than 1 billion euros in fines against two car parts cartels in the last year, said he was ready to take more action.
"We have already taken two decisions against car parts producers - the wire harnesses case in July 2013 and the bearings case last March - and there are more in the pipeline," he told an International Bar Association conference.
In March, he fined German group Schaeffler, Sweden's SKF and Japanese companies NTN, NSK and NFC a total of 953.3 million euros ($1.23 billion) for taking part in a ball bearings cartel.
Yazaki, the world's No. 1 maker of the car wire harnessing systems that power up the electronic components linking a vehicle's computers to various functions, Furukawa Electric and German peer Leoni were fined 142 million euros in July last year.
Almunia, who will leave office at the end of October, did not name any particular companies today but said his successor, former Danish economy minister Margrethe Vestager, would have plenty on her plate.
"I will hand over to Ms. Vestager a long list of other investigations in this sector," he said.