Germany reacts with shock, anger at news of automotive industry cartel

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-24 22:05:32|Editor: Song Lifang
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BERLIN, July 24 (Xinhua) -- German politicians, industry experts and consumer rights advocates lined up on Monday to attack the country's leading carmakers over allegations of illicit collusion.

"The competition authorities must conduct investigations, scrutinize the accusations and draw the necessary consequences," German Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt said.

Dobrindt described illegal collusion as yet another stain on the country's automotive industry following revelations of systemic cheating on emissions level tests.

Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz demanded that the matter be clarified and the managers responsible punished. "If the claims of cartel formation are confirmed it would be an outrageous practice. It would be a gigantic case of fraud at the expense of customers and often mid-sized suppliers," Schulz said.

Minister of Economics Brigitte Zypries released a statement saying "all would be well advised to cooperate with government authorities now and ensure transparency."

The head of the "IG-Metall" metalworkers union, Joerg Hofmann, told newspaper Welt that he wanted a "comprehensive clarification of proceedings."

"It is clear that German and European competition law must be complied with and collusions at the expense of consumers as well as environmental protection would be completely inacceptable," Hofmann said.

The Green Party has suggested scheduling a special meeting of the traffic committee in the Federal Parliament for late July to gain insight into the "machinations of the auto-cartel."

The affected carmakers released short statements on Monday, declining to comment on what they described as "speculation."

BMW said it was unaware of any investigations into its conduct and denied any links between the "Dieselgate" scandal and illicit meetings between vehicle producers.

Several German cities, including Munich, are considering banning diesel motors outright over concerns of excessive nitrogen oxide pollution.

On Friday, EU Commissioner for Industry Elzbieta Bienkowska further turned on the heat on the industry when she publicly urged German policymakers and carmakers to do more in response to the international emissions cheating scandal.

Audi responded by announcing the recall of up to 850,000 diesel vehicles, following in the footsteps of Daimler which had made a similar announcement ahead of Bienkowska's letter.

A "diesel summit" between industry representatives and policymaker will convene in August. Volkswagen CEO Mathias Mueller said the he could envision a binding date for an exit from diesel motors if sufficient time was provided to adjust.

If the new claims of collusion between carmakers are proven true, they would mark the unmasking of one of the biggest cartels in German economic history just as firms vowed to cooperate with authorities.

Klaus Mueller, the head of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, expects tens of thousands of lawsuits to be filed in which buyers will demand compensation for overpriced cars.

Given the apparent coordination between manufacturers, consumers had "potentially paid far too high prices" for their cars, Mueller told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The Federation of German Consumer Organizations further demanded that a class action lawsuit be filed by legislators to prevent potentially defrauded customers from having to take legal action individually. This would be one of the first tasks of the new federal government following elections in September, Mueller said.