The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) is deeply shocked by the allegations that German vehicle manufacturers have infringed antitrust law.
The allegations must be properly investigated. The responsible authorities will examine whether and to what extent the coordination between the manufacturers was legally permissible or not. For their part, the companies must cooperate unreservedly with the authorities and enable the matter to be completely resolved.
In the view of the VDA and its over 600 members, illegal agreements are – just like surfing in legal gray areas – unacceptable. At the same time, the current status of the proceedings suggests that one should refrain from hasty judgments. Standardization activities and the definition of norms are not necessarily damaging or illegal. But agreements that harm either consumers or competition are.
If the investigations by the antitrust authorities confirm the allegations, that would not only be a matter for the courts, but also a trigger for re-defining the corporate culture inside the companies involved.
VDA President Matthias Wissmann issued this appeal to the sector: “The technical innovations and business success in our automotive industry have made it a major part of Germany’s image all around the world. It is our duty and responsibility to protect this reputation, and this combines technical, cultural and social issues in equal measure. In order to live up to this responsibility, we must be more open to critical questions and more critical of ourselves.”
The VDA urges restraint with general judgments of the entire industry on the basis of the allegations, because it includes hundreds of manufacturing and supply firms whose employees engage in hard and honest work day in, day out.
At this time the VDA itself has no information about the latest allegations. They relate to activities not conducted in the VDA and not forming part of its work.
Several months ago, some manufacturers approached the VDA requesting that additional developmental, norm-setting and standardization topics should be integrated into the VDA. The association has started consulting its members and they are currently in the early stages of a painstaking and comprehensive examination of the associated organizational, staffing, internal and legal issues. The companies’ initiative stems from the desire to dismantle the existing structures of individual manufacturers.
The VDA always works in compliance with its own “Competition Law Guidelines in the VDA,” which were drawn up in 2009 and have been kept up-to-date ever since. The document ensures a high level of compliance and is available on the internet at: https://www.vda.de/en/services/Publications/competition-law-guidelines-in-the-vda.html. All those involved in the work of the VDA are bound by these rules.
Over 600 companies are organized in the VDA: manufacturers from the automotive industry, suppliers and the makers of buses, trailers and bodies.