In a rare move, a major global automaker is going public in its claims against bid-rigging suppliers, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for overpriced parts.
Companies from French automaker PSA Group are demanding the restitution from three Japanese suppliers and two European ones in Britain's Competition Appeal Tribunal.
The claims revolve around purchases of automotive bearings. The PSA Group companies are asking for 507.8 million euros ($579 million) in damages from the suppliers, said a spokesman for one of the defendants, Japanese bearing maker NSK Corp.
Other defendants include NTN Corp. and JTEKT Corp. from Japan, Sweden's AB SKF and Germany's INA-Holding Schaeffler GmbH. Also named are affiliates of NSK and Schaeffler. As a group, they represent the world's biggest automotive bearing makers.
PSA's demand is an unusually public move against suppliers engulfed in a multiyear global cartel crackdown that stretched from the U.S. and the European Union to Japan and beyond.
In the U.S. alone, dozens of parts makers -- mostly Japanese -- have admitted to fixing prices on everything from windshield wipers and seat belts to airbags and steering wheels.
Together, they have paid billions of dollars in fines to regulators. Rounds of civil suits, by dealers and consumers, against the suppliers are just getting started in such countries as the U.S.
But automakers that were overcharged for parts typically have remained low key about the bid-rigging scandal, settling behind closed doors or agreeing to be compensated through future discounting on parts prices. PSA's action shows some may start fighting in the open.
PSA's claim, filed Feb. 26, stems from a March 19, 2014, decision by the European Commission, according to a summary of the claim filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
That decision found that the defendants colluded on the pricing of bearings sold to car, truck and automotive component makers from April 2004 through July 2011, according to the filing.
"They seek compensation reflecting their loss of profits and/or their increased costs of borrowing," the summary says.
In NSK's case, the PSA Group contends that purchases from NSK and its subsidiaries accounted for 10 percent of its total bearing purchases, the spokesman added. NSK has not had similar claims filed against it by other customers, he said.
NSK declined to comment on next steps, saying the claim was ongoing.