VolvoTruckA group of four truck manufacturers has been hit with the highest ever cartel fine by the European Commission for fixing prices and consorting over the implementation timetable of new emissions standards.

The EC said Volvo Trucks, Daimler, Paccar’s DAF and CNH Industrial’s Iveco had conspired with each other and with VW-owned MAN for 14 years from 1997 to 2011 on the factory prices of medium and heavy trucks.

The OEMs also coordinated on when to bring in new emissions technologies and agreed they would pass the additional costs of complying with the stricter standards on to customers, according to the EC.

The first four companies have been fined a total of almost €3 billion ($3.32 billion). Daimler faces the biggest fine of €1 billion; DAF a fine of €753m; Volvo €670m; and Iveco €500m. MAN, meanwhile, has avoided a fine of around €1.2 billion as the whistleblower.

Margrethe Vestager, commissioner for competition, said: “We have today put down a marker by imposing record fines for a serious infringement. In all, there are over 30m 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 ten 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 a clear message to companies that cartels are not accepted," added Vestager.

The investigation found that between 1997 and 2004, senior managers from the truckmakers colluded at meetings at hotels, trade fairs or other events, and in various phone conversations. From 2004, the companies involved exchanged information primarily by email.

All the OEMs have acknowledged their involvement and agreed to settle the case in return for a 10% reduction in the sanctions.

In a statement, Martin Lundstedt, Volvo president and CEO said: “The Commission case was already more than five years underway. Without the settlement, we would have been facing many more years of proceedings with an uncertain outcome. We are now able to look forward and focus on our business. We strive to be a world-leading business because we compete with the best products and services and the best employees.”

MAN, meanwhile, stated: “The MAN code of conduct includes a clear belief in free and fair competition. The company does not tolerate any unfair business practices or illegal conduct. A comprehensive compliance system assists the MAN Group in complying with the law and internal regulations [including] face-to-face training, online sessions, risk analyses, audits and IT tools.”

Europe’s other major truckmaker, Scania, has also been under investigation but did not participate in the settlement agreement, said the EC. It remains under investigation.