China wants information from Volkswagen Group, BMW Group and Daimler related to allegations by the European Commission that the automakers may have colluded in delaying the launch of emissions-reducing technology.
In April, EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager warned that VW Group, Daimler and BMW “may have” broken EU competition rules when they agreed to postpone the introduction of new features that would limit the output of gasoline and diesel pollutants from tailpipes.
Along with VW Group, the Chinese Competition Authority issued information requests to its subsidiaries, Audi and Porsche, the quarterly report says.
Daimler said Thursday it was “cooperating fully” with China authorities on the matter while a BMW spokesman said “We can confirm that there was contact with the Chinese antitrust regulators.”
BMW has said it expects to book a provision in excess of 1 billion euros in the first quarter due to the high likelihood of an EU fine while refuting the claim.
VW Group Chief Financial Officer Frank Witter defended his decision against taking similar precautionary measures.
“We conduct our risk assessment in close cooperation with accountants and experts founded on the details known to us at the time. That other competitors might come to differing conclusions based on their facts is certainly possible,” he told reporters during a conference call Thursday with reporters.
VW said it would examine Vestager’s claims, but said on Thursday in its quarterly report that is has not yet been given access to the EU's investigation files.
Witter said he thinks the automaker will get a look at those files by the end of the month. “That would be my best guess,” he added.
Daimler blew the whistle on the possible collusion and expects not to be penalized for participating.
Daimler's immunity to EU fines would not be in extended to China if authorities there decided to impose penalties, according to a company source.
While diesel plays no role in passenger cars in China, most modern cars come equipped with direct-injection gasoline engines that emit more fine particulates than their port injection cousins. Since September, new particulate limits have been put in place across Europe that essentially requires all cars with direct-injection engines to be equipped with filters in order to be approved for sale.
Volkswagen booked special items of 981 million euros in the first quarter in connection with its 2015 diesel-emissions scandal. That brings total charges to nearly 30 billion euros.