Five years ago today, US authorities announced that Volkswagen had committed emissions fraud. Dieselgate began. As a journalist, I closely followed the 2016 European Parliament inquiry into the scandal – which concluded that maladministration allowed the cheating to happen – and wrote a book about it. I look at what happened since in a series of short blog posts.
Car companies used defeat device to pass emissions tests when their diesel cars were in fact much dirtier in normal driving conditions. But they may have even been doing more than that. Following inspections in October 2017 at the offices of Audi, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen, the European Commission reached the “preliminary view” that these companies “have breached EU antitrust rules from 2006 to 2014 by colluding to restrict competition on the development of technology to clean the emissions of petrol and diesel passenger cars”.
Basically, that they were a cartel.
The allegation was that the German companies held back on technological advances that would have made cars cleaner. The companies were informed of the Commission’s preliminary view in a so-called Statement of Objections, according to a 5 April 2019 press release. “The parties can then examine the documents in the Commission’s investigation file, reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present their comments on the case before representatives of the Commission and national competition authorities.”
It has been more than a year since then, so I decided to ask the Commission for a status update. Have the companies since then replied in writing and/or requested an oral hearing to present their comments on the case before representatives of the Commission and national competition authorities?
The Commission’s answer is going to cause this blog post to end very anticlimactically:
“We have no comment. This investigation is ongoing.”