Truckmakers fined record €2.93bn for running 14-year cartel on emissions technology

Europe’s largest truckmakers have been fined a record total of €2.93 billion in a settlement with the EU after they admitted to involvement in a 14-year price-fixing cartel. Iveco, DAF, Volvo/Renault, Daimler and MAN fixed prices and jointly agreed the pace of introduction for emission reduction technologies between 1997 and 2011, when the industry was working to comply with Euro air pollution standards III to VI. 

The five European companies colluded over the list price of their trucks and the negotiations with haulage operators, according to the European Commission. They also delayed introducing new technology to reduce cancer-causing emissions and then fixed the price premium that was added to the cost of the trucks equipped with the new technology.

Allegedly, one of the aims of the cartel was to force hauliers to shoulder the full cost of introducing clean technology. The Financial Times, among other media outlets, has warned of a wave of lawsuits from truck buyers seeking compensation for overpaying for their trucks for more than a decade.

MAN, which acted as a whistleblower in the probe, avoided a penalty while Scania also faced the same charges but decided not to settle with the European Commission and is still being investigated.

However, T&E said that while the settlement fine is a record, it is still possible that the industry stands to gain from the cartel. T&E’s executive director Jos Dings said: ‘This is a big fine, but not at all extreme if you look at the enormous scale of this cartel – all trucks sold in Europe over 14 years. After this verdict truckmakers need to change, but so too do regulators by creating competition on environmental performance. Introducing fuel economy standards is one key way of doing that.’

T&E said that based on annual sales figures, the €2.93 billion fine represents around €850 per vehicle sold by the fined companies while the cartel was in operation. Meanwhile, the average compliance costs of the Euro III-VI standards are estimated at around €3,500 per truck over that period. So if the industry colluders only agreed to a relatively modest degree of overpricing for compliance costs, the cartel has been profitable in retrospect – even taking the fine into account. In 2013 Euro VI trucks were initially sold with an industry-wide €10,000 premium.

Jos Dings added: ‘Unfortunately none of the €2.93 billion settlement fine has actually been dedicated towards remediation of environmental damage, unlike the partial VW Dieselgate settlement in the US. The fine could have well been directed towards research and development of cleaner, more energy efficient vehicles, or the accelerated electrification of transport.’