Germany’s Mahle Behr, France’s Valeo and four Japanese firms (Panasonic, Calsonic, Denso, Sanden) were accused on Wednesday (8 March) of taking part in one or more cartels.
The European Commission fined the firms with €155 million.
The six car component suppliers colluded to coordinate prices or markets, and exchanged sensitive information for the supply of climate control components and engine cooling components in the European markets, the Commission said.
“Even though air conditioning and cooling components are not something you see as products, they are very much something you feel. In this case, you might also have felt it in your wallet even though temperatures would still be regulated in your car,” antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.
All companies fined admitted their involvement and agreed to settle the case. Denso received full immunity for revealing three of the cartels, avoiding a €287 million fine. But the firm will pay €322,000 for its involvement in a fourth one.
Panasonic was not fined either, as it revealed one of the cartels.
Mahle Behr was fined €62.1 million, while Sanden will pay €64.6 million.
The penalty imposed on Valeo is €26.7 million and Calsonic must pay €1.7 million.
The four cartels operated until 2009 and started as early as 2004. They affected carmakers Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler brand Mercedes, Geely-owned Volvo, Suzuki, Nissan, Renault and Jaguar Land Rover.
This is the sixth decision since the executive started investigating the automotive components industry several years ago.
The European Commission has already fined suppliers of automotive bearings, wire harnesses in cars, flexible foam used (inter alia) in car seats, parking heaters in cars and trucks and alternators and starters.
It is currently investigating manufacturers involved in occupant safety systems.