EU hits car-part makers with €368 million price-fixing fine

The EU's anti-trust regulator has issued huge fines to two auto-safety equipment suppliers for running cartels. Autoliv and TRW colluded to fix prices of car parts to Volkswagen and BMW.

Two manufacturers of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels were fined €368 million ($416 million) by the European Commission on Tuesday, in the latest antitrust case against car-part suppliers.

The US, Michigan-headquartered TRW Automotive will pay €189 million, while Autoliv, based in Stockholm, Sweden, has been fined €179 million penalty.

The pair, along with a third supplier, Takata of Japan, were found to have colluded as suppliers of safety equipment to German auto giants Volkswagen and BMW between 2007 and 2011.

Read more: VW and Microsoft put their heads together in the digital cloud

Takata was not fined the €195 million the commission initially set because it blew the whistle on the cartel.

All three acknowledged involvement and agreed to settle, and TRW Automotive and Autoliv having their fines reduced for cooperation.

Competition damaged

"These cartels ultimately hurt European consumers and adversely impacted the competitiveness of the European automotive sector," said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

This coordination, which was aimed at boosting profits, occurred "through meetings at the suppliers' business premises but also in restaurants and hotels, as well as through phone calls and e-mail exchanges," the commission said in a statement.

Read more: Porsche obliged to pay €10 million after tax blunder

Autoliv said it had made a provision of $210 million for the fine in the fourth quarter, which it has 90 days to pay.

The settlement is the latest in a series of commission fines against car-part suppliers, which now total 2.15 billion euros since 2013.

It is also the second time that Autoliv and TRW Automotive have been fined.

The commission, which polices competition in the EU, says any person or company affected by the two cartels' actions can seek damages in court.

Geneva Motor Show: An electrifying spectacle despite some no-shows

Who's playing hooky?

The Geneva Motor Show, which opens to the public on Thursday, is always the first European show on the motor industry's calendar. Held at the Palexpo site, it has long been considered one of the important international motor spectacles. But the Swiss are not best pleased that several key exhibitors will not be showing up this year, including Jaguar/Land Rover, Ford, Volvo, Opel and Hyundai.

Geneva Motor Show: An electrifying spectacle despite some no-shows

Bugatti's moment

Bugatti, one of German auto giant VW's twelve brands, is 110 years old this year. The Molsheim (France) carmaker is celebrating with a "110 ans" special edition of the Chiron Sport. Sprayed in matt blue, with the three colors of the French flag visible at various points (including from the rear-view mirror), this 16-cylinder, eight liter, 1,500 HP beast costs just €3.15 million ($3.59 million).

Geneva Motor Show: An electrifying spectacle despite some no-shows

Very British centenary

Another VW subsidiary is also celebrating; this time it's Bentley's 100-year anniversary. The company has produced a special edition Mulsanne in tribute to its founder, W.O. Bentley — a throwback to his last handdrawn design from 1930. Limited to a production run of just 100, this car includes part of the crankshaft from W.O.'s personal car, carefully cut into pieces by the company's engineers.

Geneva Motor Show: An electrifying spectacle despite some no-shows

French freshman

This is how PSA subsidiary Citroen wants to transform urban mobility. The Ami One (French for friend) is based on the Smart car concept. Its 8-horsepower electric motor, however, can only reach 45 kilometers per hour (28 miles per hour). A major plus point is that no driver's license is required to race through town, so its target group of mostly young people should be over the moon.

Geneva Motor Show: An electrifying spectacle despite some no-shows

Aachen's answer

In 2015, Günther Schuh founded e.GO Mobile AG on the campus of Germany's RWTH Aachen University. After a joint venture with Deutsche Post-DHL for the Streetscooter protect, he and his team developed this miniature electric car — the sports edition will be shown in Geneva. Sales of the e.GO Life are scheduled for March, with prices starting at €15,900.

Geneva Motor Show: An electrifying spectacle despite some no-shows

Skoda's SUV No. 3

After the successful Kodiaq and Karoq models, VW subsidiary Skoda will unveil the European version of its third SUV. The automaker is billing the Kamiq as an "SUV for the city." The three funky names are borrowed from the Inuit language. Even so, the far northern reaches of Canada and Greenland are not exactly buzzing auto markets.

Geneva Motor Show: An electrifying spectacle despite some no-shows

Volvo's Tesla killer

Polestar is Volvo's electric car brand. The Swedish firm, now in Chinese hands, presented the Polestar 2 shortly before the Geneva Motor Show. Scheduled to go into series production this year, Polestar 2 will be available just below the Tesla price for €40,000-60,000. Converted to 400 horsepower, the new car will have a range of 560 kilometers (350 miles).

Geneva Motor Show: An electrifying spectacle despite some no-shows

Ingolstadt's e-offer

Audi also aims to be a Tesla killer. The Ingolstadt-based company already has the first of its the E-tron series on the market, and others are set to follow. For example, this SUV called Q4, will go on show in Geneva to test consumer interest. Depending on battery size, it is expected to have a range of between 400 and 600 kilometers (250 to 375 miles) and be launched in 2020.

Geneva Motor Show: An electrifying spectacle despite some no-shows

Electric offroader

The VW brand is holding back in Geneva. The Wolfsburg-based company is concentrating on the second half of the year when the new Golf VIII is expected and series production of the ID electric car begins. At the Motor Show, this version of the ID Buggy will be shown in a tribute to the beach buggies of the 1970s, which were made out of a Beetle chassis.

Geneva Motor Show: An electrifying spectacle despite some no-shows

Piëch's return?

Piëch is making a return to the auto industry, although it's not Ferdinand, the ex-VW patriarch who fell from grace in Wolfsburg. Instead, Anton, one of his sons, has founded Piëch Automotive and plans to take a bite out of the sports car segment with the "Mark Zero." The Geneva Motor Show runs until March 17. Author: Henrik Böhme (mm)

mm/jm (AP, DPA)

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