The Federal Cartel Office imposed fines totaling 100 million euros on BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen. The automakers had behaved anti-competitive when purchasing steel - and illegally agreed prices, said the authority in Bonn.
From 2004 to 2013, the companies met twice a year with steel producers, forges and large system suppliers and exchanged prices for the purchase of long steel, "said the President of the Cartel Office, Andreas Mundt. "As far as in the consequence of the discussions about this no longer individual negotiations with the suppliers was negotiated, the competition among themselves with regard to these price components was switched off."
Steel for handlebars, camshafts, gears
In addition to the base price, scrap and alloy surcharges accounted for a substantial part of the purchase price - and in the specific case and during the period of the offense, this amounts to around one third of the final price, the authority said.
The steel investigations had nothing to do with the cartel allegations against five automakers because of the diesel emission control system.
Unlike base prices, surcharges have traditionally not been negotiated, but have been calculated according to established, industry-wide formulas. In 2003 and 2004, manufacturers changed the calculation of surcharges. From then on, car and steel manufacturers as well as blacksmiths met regularly in the trade association steel and metal processing - and agreed there on their own regulations on prices.
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The car manufacturers use many parts made of long steel during production, including crankshafts, connecting rods, camshafts, gears and handlebars. The damage caused by the collusion should nevertheless be limited for the car buyers. The share of long-steel purchasing costs in the total cost of a car is less than one percent.
The companies admitted the facts and cooperated, the Antitrust Office informed - and agreed to a consensual termination of the proceedings. The fine imposed is still not final. The corporations can appeal, which is decided by the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court.