Truckmakers May Have Conspired to Fix Prices, EU Says

Volvo AB and Volkswagen AG’s MAN SE are among truckmakers European Union regulators suspect of conspiring to fix prices in the first case opened by new Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The EU sent a statement of objections to makers of heavy and medium trucks that accuses them of participating in an illegal cartel, regulators said in a statement today. While the EU didn’t identify the companies that were involved in the case, manufacturers confirmed they were involved.

The auto industry is the focus of investigations by competition authorities across the world. The EU is probing “an abundance of cartels” among parts suppliers, an official said last year. Fines can be as much as 10 percent of annual revenue for secret deals with rivals to set prices or rig markets. Manufacturers of ball bearings to car and truckmakers were jointly fined 953 million euros ($1.2 billion) in March.

“Fighting cartels will be one of the priorities during my mandate because companies should compete and not collude,” Vestager told reporters today. “This is a very old cartel that had its peak ten years ago but that has continued.”

Volvo, based in Gothenburg, Sweden, said it is evaluating the implications of the statement of objections. MAN also said it received the EU complaint. DAF Trucks NV, part of Paccar Inc., and its German arm said they were informed that they will be receiving objections.

2011 Case

“It’s a case that has been going since 2011, dealing with alleged prohibited exchange of information among truckmakers,” MAN spokesman Sacha Klingner said by phone. “Since it’s an ongoing case, we’re not commenting further.”

Daimler AG, the largest truckmaker by volume, said it has “knowledge” of the objections. “We’re waiting for the official notification,” said Ute Wueest von Vellberg, a company spokeswoman.

Scania AB, CNH Industrial NV’s Iveco and Volvo’s Renault Trucks may also be involved in the case, people familiar with the probe said last month.

A spokesman for CNH declined to comment today. Scania didn’t respond to a call and an e-mail seeking comment.

The statements of objections are Vestager’s first formal action as the EU’s antitrust chief, weeks after taking office amid a furore related to tax probes in Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands. Vestager has held off making a decision in a four-year-old probe into Google Inc.’s search results, saying she needs time to make her own evaluation of the case.

Hyundai Motor Co. and Korean units of Scania, Volvo, Daimler, MAN and Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Co. were fined by South Korean regulators last year for fixing prices of trucks and tractors sold in the country.

The U.K. dropped a civil probe into a truck-manufacturing cartel in 2012, saying the EU was “particularly well placed” to handle the investigation on a wider level. British authorities ended a criminal probe into the trucks industry in 2011 that led to the arrest of a Daimler executive, citing lack of evidence.

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