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EU launches investigation

European Union regulators have opened an in-depth investigation into whether automakers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen colluded to limit the development and roll-out of car emission control systems.

The EU Commission said Tuesday that it had received information that BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, and VW units Audi and Porsche held meetings to discuss clean technologies aimed at limiting car exhaust emissions.

The probe focuses on whether the automakers agreed not to compete against each other in developing and introducing technology to restrict pollution from gasoline and diesel passenger cars.

"If proven, this collusion may have denied consumers the opportunity to buy less polluting cars, despite the technology being available to the manufacturers," said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The Commission said its probe was focused on diesel emission control systems involving the injection of urea solution into exhaust to remove harmful nitrogen oxides. The probe follows a report in Der Spiegel magazine last year that the automakers had agreed to limit the size of the tanks holding the urea solution.

The case is another source of diesel trouble for German automakers in the wake of Volkswagen's emissions scandal.

The Commission said, however, there was no evidence the companies had colluded to develop so-called defeat devices — computer software that illegally turns off emissions controls. Volkswagen in 2015 admitted using such devices and has set aside 27.4 billion euros ($32 billion) for fines, settlements, recalls and buybacks. Former CEO Martin Winterkorn was criminally charged by U.S. authorities but cannot be extradited; Audi division head Rupert Stadler has been jailed while prosecutors investigate possible wrongdoing.

The automakers said they were not able to comment on details of the case but pointed out in statements that opening a probe does not necessarily mean a violation will be found. Daimler and Volkswagen said they were co-operating with the probe; BMW said that it "has supported the EU commission in its work and will continue to do so."



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