On 8 July 2021, the European Commission published a press release stating that the EC has found that Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen group (Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche) breached EU antitrust rules by colluding on technical development in the area of nitrogen oxide cleaning in the period between 25 June 2009 and 1 October 2014. The Commission has imposed a fine of €875,189,000. Daimler was not fined, as it had revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission. All parties acknowledged their involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case. This is the first time that the Commission concluded that collusion on technical development amounts to a cartel.
The five car manufacturers possessed the technology to reduce harmful emissions beyond what was legally required under EU emission standards. But they avoided to compete on using this technology’s full potential to clean better than what is required by law. Instead, they held regular technical meetings to discuss the development of the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology which eliminates harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel passenger cars through the injection of urea (also called “AdBlue”) into the exhaust gas stream. They also removed the uncertainty about their future market conduct concerning NOx emissions cleaning beyond and above the legal requirements (so-called “over-fulfilment”) and AdBlue-refill ranges. This means that they restricted competition on product characteristics relevant for the customers.
The conduct of the five car manufacturers constitutes an infringement by object in the form of a limitation of technical development under Article 101(1)(b) of the Treaty and Article 53(1)(b) of the EEA Agreement.
 European Commission, “Antitrust: Commission fines car manufacturers €875 million for restricting competition in emission cleaning for new diesel passenger cars”, 8 July 2021, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_3581.