EU Starts Probe of Automotive Wire-Harness Maker Cartels

Leoni AG and other makers of automotive wire harnesses are being probed by the European Union for possible collusion in multiple cartels.

The wiring unit of German wire and cable-maker Leoni is cooperating with the European Commission, the company said today. The antitrust investigation, announced by the regulator, is part of a crackdown on price fixing in the auto-parts industry.

The EU agency has previously raided makers of wire harnesses, car safety systems, bearings and thermal systems. The Brussels-based EU antitrust authority can fine companies as much as 10 percent of yearly sales or require them to change the way they do business if it concludes that they harmed competition.

The probe “is part of a wider effort to investigate possible cartels in the automotive sector,” the commission said in a statement today.

The commission didn’t name the companies it is probing. Makers of automotive wire harnesses, which are electrical distribution systems, include privately-held Draexlmaier Group, Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd., and Delphi Automotive Plc. Behr GmbH was among makers of car heating and cooling systems raided by EU officials in May.

Leoni will cooperate with the EU probe and provide information and documents to clarify the issue, Bernd Buhmann, a spokesman for the Nuremberg-based company, said in a telephone interview.

“We have not made any provisions for a possible fine,” he said. “There were several inspections at our premises since February 2010 and we do not know if they will continue or intensify or are already completed.”

Officials at Sumitomo’s German wire-harness unit, weren’t immediately available to comment and didn’t respond to an e-mail request. Representatives of Delphi and Draexlmaier also weren’t immediately available to comment.

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