European truck cartel disbanded

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European truck manufacturers supply most of the vehicles used for road transport in Western Europe and all these companies operate globally. DAF is a wholly owned subsidiary of US PACCAR, which owns the North American truck brands Peterbilt and Kenworth. Daimler owns Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Freightliner and Western Star in North America, Fuso in Japan and Bharat Benz in India. The Volvo Truck Group includes Volvo Trucks, Renault Trucks, UD Trucks in Japan and Mack Trucks in the US. Iveco owns the Astra and Magirus specialist truck brands and is part of CNH, Case New Holland, effectively the heavy vehicles division of the Fiat Chrysler group. MAN and Scania are part of the Volkswagen Group.

 

Fines total €2.9 million

All these manufacturers have been under investigation in Europe for price fixing and in July, the European Commission announced that fines totalling €2,926,499,000 had been imposed on Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF for breaking EU anti-trust rules. MAN was not fined because it revealed the existence of the cartel to the European Commission, but the company had taken part in it. All the companies acknowledged their involvement and agreed to settle the case.

The European Commission found that the truck makers had colluded for 14 years between 1997 and 2011 on truck pricing and on passing on the costs of compliance with stricter emissions regulations. Speaking at the time the European Commission’s findings were published, the commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, said: “We have today put down a marker by imposing record fines for a serious infringement. In all, there are over 30 million trucks on European roads, which account for around three quarters of inland transport of goods in Europe and play a vital role for the European economy. It is not acceptable that MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF, which together account for around nine out of every 10 medium and heavy trucks produced in Europe, were part of a cartel instead of competing with each other. For 14 years they colluded on the pricing and on passing on the costs for meeting environmental standards to customers. This is also a clear message to companies that cartels are not accepted.”

Since most manufacturers co-operated with the European Commission, they were granted reductions in their fines under the Commission’s Leniency and Settlement notices, with Volvo/Renault, Daimler and Iveco receiving reductions of 50%, 40% and 20% respectively. Individually Volvo/Renault was fined €670,448,000, Daimler €1,008,766,000, Iveco €494,606,000 and DAF €752,679,000.

 

Scania investigation continues

Scania is the other large truck maker in Europe and according to the Commission, “Proceedings were also opened with regard to Scania. Scania is not covered by this settlement decision and therefore the investigation will continue under the standard (non-settlement) cartel procedure for this company.”

The Commission’s investigations revealed that the manufacturers had engaged in a cartel relating to three specific areas: co-ordinating prices at ‘gross list’ level, effectively the ex-factory price of vehicles, the timing for the introduction of emissions control technologies and passing the cost of the emissions technologies to customers. The Commission is satisfied that there was no attempt at avoiding or manipulating compliance with emissions standards.

The infringements covered the entire European Economic Area. From 2004 onwards, the European Commission says that the cartel was organised via the manufacturers’ German subsidiaries, with information generally exchanged electronically.

With luck the settlement of this long running case will mean that ACEA once again identifies individual truck manufacturers in its registration data. This was suspended several years ago when the investigation was started. For now we must carry on with the broad outline that ACEA provides.

Data for the EU, covering the first six months of 2016 (H1) shows that overall commercial vehicle registrations rose by 13.5% in H1 2016 compared with H1 2015. Italy posted strong growth of 30.8%, with Spain recording 14.0% growth, France 12.7%, Germany with 10.4% and the UK with 3.6% compared with H1 2015. In total 1,170,263 CVs were registered in the EU in H1 2016, compared with 1,030,747 in H1 2015. Some 94% of these were light CVs, below 3,500kg gross vehicle weight (GVW).

Registrations for light CVs in H1 rose by 13.2% to 968,791. Italy posted the largest percentage increase amongst the larger markets with a 31.3% increase in registrations to 83,297. All markets posted increases in H1 apart from Greece and Latvia where registrations fell by -12.4% to 2,870 and by -15.1% to 1,021 respectively. France remains the largest LCV market with 215,135 registrations, followed by the UK with 191,966 and Germany with 126,260.

The picture is similar for both heavy CVs (more than 16 tonnes GVW) and medium and heavy CVs (over 3.5 tonnes GVW). Across the EU, heavy truck registrations in H1 rose by 17.6% to 147,012. Lithuania posted the largest percentage increase with registrations up 96.3% to 3,125. Germany leads the market with 34,111 registrations, a 9.7% increase over H1 2015. France is the second largest with 21,611 registrations (+18%) and the UK in third place with 16,941 (+8.4%)

Registrations for medium and heavy CVs in the EU rose by 16.5% to 182,706 in H1 with all markets experiencing an increase except for Cyprus, a very small market where registrations fell by -12.0% to 22. Germany has a decisive lead with 47,603 registrations, up 8.7% compared with H1 2015, followed by France with 25,249 (+17.0%) and the UK with 23,121 (+10.1%).

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