The automakers may have colluded to curtail the development of emissions technology.
Dieselgate’s massive web is indeed a sticky one, and when you think it’s starting to wane something new comes along to expand it further. To be fair, this latest allegation isn’t really Dieselgate proper, but it does involve possible collusion among automakers to curb the development of emissions control devices. That’s enough for the average person to draw a very clear line from one issue to the other, and in the end, folks simply wanting to breathe clean air still get the shaft just the same.
This time, the issue isn’t over possible defeat devices to fool testing equipment. Autocar reports that the European Commission is investigating whether BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen Group made an agreement to not compete over the development of emissions control technology. That by itself doesn’t sound too bad, until you realize the alleged agreement could intentionally hinder the exploration and creation of new, better emissions tech. In Europe, such a thing could be a breach of European Union antitrust regulations, hence the investigation.
The tricky bit is whether these automakers simply agreed to not compete against each other, or actively colluded to prevent the development of new devices and equipment. The investigation is said to focus primarily on catalytic reduction systems and particulate filters. It should be noted, however, that the report also clarifies that the Commission doesn’t yet have enough indications pointing to anti-competitive conduct among the companies that would warrant further investigation.
That doesn’t mean the investigation is closed – it’s already established that yes, the three companies had meetings to discuss various aspects of research and development in several areas. It seems the question now is whether the nature of the discussions on emissions could be interpreted as undermining the EU’s regulations on the development of technology. Considering the recent track record with automakers and emissions standards, it's understandably difficult to extend these companies the benefit of the doubt.
In the post-Dieselgate world, manufacturers are under all kinds of scrutiny. And the odds are strong that this latest controversy still won’t be the last.