Spanish Competition Authority Investigates Car Price Fixing

Spain’s competition authority is investigating whether car retailers colluded to fix prices and share information, as automakers suffer falling sales amid Spain’s five-year economic slowdown.

The National Competition Commission started an investigation into possible price fixing in the sale of brands including Volkswagen, Audi and Toyota. It is also investigating carmakers including Nissan Iberia SA, Renault Espana SA, Ford Espana SL and Chevrolet Espana SA for possible practices including sharing market-sensitive information, the regulator said on its website yesterday.

Spain has been in and out of recession since 2008, when a debt-fueled housing and consumer boom collapsed, undermining car sales. In the first eight months of the year new car registrations shrank 3.6 percent, adding to a decline of 13 percent seen in 2012, even amid government incentive programs for automakers.

The probe into the companies for possible information-sharing also includes Toyota Espana SL, Chrysler Espana SL, General Motors Espana SLU, Fiat Group Automobiles Spain SA, Hyundai Motor Espana SLU, Honda Automoviles Espana SA, KIA Motors Iberia SL, Peugeot Citroen Automoviles Espana SA, Volkswagen Audi Espana, and Seat. The investigations may take as long as 18 months, the regulator said.

Ford said in a statement it always operates strictly within the law and will cooperate with the regulator. Joaquin Torres, a spokesman for Chevrolet, said in a phone interview that competition in the Spanish car market is “very clear”, and the company expects that to be demonstrated by the investigation.

Representatives for Seat and Toyota said they had no comment on the probe. Nobody was available to comment at the other automakers contacted by Bloomberg News.

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