The European commission has fined Daimler, Volvo/Renault and two other truckmakers a record €2.93bn (£2.5bn) for colluding on prices and passing the costs of emissions rules on to customers.
The cartel, which also comprised MAN, Iveco and DAF, operated between 1997 and 2011 to increase factory prices of medium and heavy trucks in the European Economic Area, the commission said.
They also colluded on when to introduce emissions technologies and charged customers for these measures on trucks weighing 6 tonnes or more.
The manufacturers, which make about 90% of trucks in Europe, did not seek to avoid or rig the standards, but delays meant that customers missed out on innovative technology, the commission said.
Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition, said: “A meeting in Brussels was the starting point for this long-lasting truck cartel. The first meeting was organised right here in January 1997, in what seems to be a cosy hotel. It was the beginning of a 14-year-long collusion.”
Senior management then colluded at meetings on the fringes of trade fairs and other events, and held discussions by phone. From 2004, the cartel was run by lower level managers through the companies’ German subsidiaries and information was exchanged by email.
MAN, owned by Volkswagen, came forward to reveal the existence of the cartel and avoided a fine of about €1.2bn. The biggest penalty of €1bn was imposed on Daimler. Dutch company DAF’s fine is €753m, Volvo/Renault will pay €670m and Italy’s Iveco will pay €495m.
Vestager declined to say how far up the companies the collusion went, describing those involved simply as senior management. She said MAN’s decision to come forward showed that partners in a cartel could not trust each other.