×

German automakers might face EU fines after allegations but no global legal threat, analyst says

  • "I still don't see a major global legal threat here," Arndt Ellinghorst, head of global automotive research at Evercore ISI, told CNBC on Tuesday.
  • EU antitrust officials confirmed Saturday they had started investigating allegations of a cartel among a group of German carmakers.
  • Volkswagen said it would hold a special supervisory board meeting on Wednesday in order to discuss allegations of industry collusion, a source confirmed to CNBC via email.

Allegations of industry collusion between Germany's car manufacturing industry is not likely to spill over into a major global legal threat, Arndt Ellinghorst, head of global automotive research at Evercore ISI, told CNBC on Tuesday.

German news magazine, Der Spiegel, reported Friday that Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Porsche and Daimler may have been engaged in an illegal cooperation. The major German carmakers are accused of using industry committee meetings to agree on costs, suppliers, technologies and even the prices of diesel emission treatment systems.

"This is potentially being dragged into the U.S. because some of the accounts were sold to American customers and also the Chinese as they were exported … But I still don't see a major global legal threat here," Ellinghorst said.

U.S. department officials are believed to be looking into allegations of industry collusion between major German carmakers, according to a Bloomberg report which cites an unnamed source. However, there has been no indication that the Justice Department is poised to open a formal investigation.

BMW rejected reports of emissions collusion while other carmakers have reportedly refused to comment on the claims.

Volkswagen said it would hold a special supervisory board meeting on Wednesday in order to discuss allegations of industry collusion, a source confirmed to CNBC via email.

'The line is when you breach EU antitrust rules'

Volkswagen
Ashlee Espinal | CNBC
Volkswagen

When asked at which point Volkswagen and other major German carmakers could be adjudged to have crossed the line on alleged industrial collusion, Evercore's Ellinghorst replied, "Well, the line is when you breach antitrust rules."

He explained that industry groups meeting to agree on technology practices as well as regulatory standards is "normal practice" for major business and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

"What is not normal practice is if a group of these OEMs (including) VW, BMW and Daimler meet outside of normal industry standards where there are no lawyers involved overseeing the whole thing," Ellinghorst added.

Shares of the top three German carmakers dropped sharply in the previous session amid a possible breach of regulatory standards. BMW and Volkswagen extended losses on Tuesday, while Daimler was trading close to the flatline in afternoon deals.

EU antitrust officials confirmed Saturday they had started investigating allegations of a cartel among a group of German carmakers.

The commission is the EU's top antitrust agency in the EU, ensuring fair business dealings in the European market. While it has the power to force firms to change the way they do business, antitrust officials can also fine companies as much as 10 percent of their global turnover.

The automotive industry accounts for about 20 percent of Germany's industry revenue and employs approximately 800,000 people.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.