Au­tomak­ers didn’t col­lude, BMW says

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - JACK EWING

FRANK­FURT, Ger­many — BMW, re­spond­ing Sun­day to claims it formed a car­tel with Daim­ler and Volk­swa­gen to hold down the prices of cru­cial tech­nol­ogy, de­nied that the Ger­man car­mak­ers had agreed among them­selves to in­stall emis­sions equip­ment that was in­ad­e­quate to do the job.

The state­ment by BMW was the first at­tempt at dam­age con­trol by the car­mak­ers since the Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion said Satur­day that it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of il­le­gal col­lu­sion among them.

The Ger­man car­mak­ers, who dom­i­nate the global mar­ket for lux­ury cars, can hardly af­ford an­other blow to their rep­u­ta­tions. They were un­der fire af­ter sev­eral gov­ern­ment stud­ies showed that diesel cars, once pro­moted as en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, fre­quently pol­lute much more than ad­ver­tised.

Adding to the pres­sure, the ac­cu­sa­tions against the au­tomak­ers showed signs Sun­day of be­com­ing an is­sue in com­ing na­tional elec­tions. Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and her trans­port min­is­ter, Alexan­der Do­brindt, faced in­creas­ing crit­i­cism that they had been overly ac­com­mo­dat­ing to the car­mak­ers and had en­abled wrong­do­ing by them.

Martin Schulz, the chan­cel­lor can­di­date for the left-lean­ing So­cial Democrats, said that if the al­le­ga­tions proved true, “it would be a gi­gan­tic fraud against cus­tomers,” ac­cord­ing to news re­ports.

Oliver Krischer, a lead­ing mem­ber of the Green Party, told the Ger­man Press Agency that the al­le­ga­tions “take the emis­sions scan­dal into a new di­men­sion.”

Such harsh crit­i­cism of the auto in­dus­try is un­usual in Ger­many, and it il­lus­trates the de­gree to which pub­lic opin­ion is turn­ing against the car­mak­ers. Mo­tor ve­hi­cles are the coun­try’s big­gest ex­port, and Volk­swa­gen, Daim­ler and BMW are among Ger­many’s largest em­ploy­ers.

In its state­ment Sun­day, BMW said that dis­cus­sions with the other car­mak­ers had been about how to en­sure that cus­tomers would be able to buy re­fills of a chem­i­cal needed for pol­lu­tion equip­ment in diesel ve­hi­cles. The chem­i­cal, a urea so­lu­tion sold com­mer­cially as AdBlue, is sprayed into the ex­haust to neu­tral­ize harm­ful ni­tro­gen ox­ides.

“From a BMW Group per­spec­tive, the ob­jec­tive of dis­cus­sions with other man­u­fac­tur­ers con­cern­ing AdBlue tanks was the in­stal­la­tion of the re­quired tank­ing in­fra­struc­ture in Eu­rope,” BMW said.

Ger­man mag­a­zine Der Spiegel re­ported Fri­day that the car­mak­ers agreed in 2006 to limit the size of the tanks used to hold AdBlue to save space in the car that could be used for sound sys­tems or other fea­tures. Volk­swa­gen has ad­mit­ted that its ve­hi­cles were pro­grammed to ra­tion doses of AdBlue, lead­ing to ex­cess emis­sions. Der Spiegel said it had seen doc­u­ments that were part of an an­titrust in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

BMW said its lat­est mod­els were clean, de­spite a rel­a­tively small AdBlue tank, be­cause they com­bined two types of pol­lu­tion tech­nol­ogy: a sys­tem that uses the AdBlue spray and a separate cat­alytic con­verter that traps ni­tro­gen ox­ide mol­e­cules.

In a tacit ad­mis­sion that older ve­hi­cles pol­lute too much, Daim­ler, Volk­swa­gen’s Audi di­vi­sion and BMW have an­nounced plans to up­grade soft­ware on diesel ve­hi­cles across Eu­rope to re­duce emis­sions. The three car­mak­ers have said in re­cent days that they will mod­ify more than 4 mil­lion ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing 3 mil­lion Daim­ler ve­hi­cles, 850,000 Audis and 350,000 BMWs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.