The reactions were violent. In the first two trading days after the publication of the SPIEGEL cover story (30/2017) about the car cartel, the stock market value of Daimler, VW, Porsche and BMW by almost eleven billion euros. Executives of a corporation threatened with claims for damages in the millions. An expert opinion has already been commissioned from a law firm.
The companies did not deny that experts from the five brands had coordinated almost all technologies for years. They couldn't either. Because the SPIEGEL quoted from countless minutes and emails of the so-called 5er circles of Daimler, VW, Audi, Porsche and BMW. But that's all »half as wild«as a corporate boss said at the time. Because it was not about price fixing - the classic case of a cartel - but only about the coordination of certain technologies.
The EU Commission has now disregarded the arguments of BMW and Co. She has penalties imposed in the amount of almost 900 million euros. With this, the Commission broke new ground, grumbles BMW, still trying to suggest that everything was half as bad and half as wild.
But that's wrong. The commission is entering new territory and imposing harsh penalties because the agreements between the carmakers were more perfidious and harmful than competition lawyers could previously have imagined.
The corporations had agreed to only install small AdBlue tanks in the vehicles, although they knew that their volume was insufficient for proper emission control. BMW compensated for the disadvantage with other technology. VW, Audi and Porsche used fraudulent software to pass the approval tests. In doing so, they harmed the environment and endangered the health of millions of people. And they revealed a double standard: the manufacturers, who like to advertise with their environmental awareness, had agreed not to use the existing technology for the time being.
Profit came before conscience
There is no need to puzzle over the motif. It was about the money. Profit came before conscience. Instead of large AdBlue tanks, some people preferred to build in music systems that are subject to a surcharge and with which one can earn a lot.
The commission honored all of this in its punishment - and it was even milder. Because the car manufacturers have not only agreed on diesel vehicles. They have also blocked the use of effective particulate filters in gasoline engines for years.
With the decision of the EU Commission, a dark chapter for German car manufacturers has come to an end. By the way: A claim for damages against SPIEGEL has not been received to date.