BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen Group, which also is the parent company of Audi, did not reply to a WardsAuto request for a comment on the allegations. However, a July 26 VW board statement after Das Kartell was revealed in Der Spiegel argued, “It is quite common for car manufacturers all over the world to engage in an exchange on technical issues in order to accelerate the pace and quality of innovations.”

Benefits cited included speedier and more economic introduction of “innovative solutions,” with an example being “the envisaged standardization of charging connections for electric vehicles.”

Das Kartell is the latest scandal to hit the German auto industry coming after the Dieselgate emissions-test cheating furor. And it is not the first scandal involving a cartel that has hit the sector with huge fines. Daimler and Volkswagen-owned MAN were among the firms involved in a truck cartel, which colluded in price-fixing, including agreeing to pass emissions-compliance costs along to customers from 1997 until 2011.

However, as a whistleblower MAN gained a 100% waiver from its €1.2 billion ($1.4 billion) fine and Daimler received a 40% reduction for cooperating, paying out just over €1 billion ($1.2 billion). Fines doled out to cartel members by the EC in July 2016 totaled €2.9 billion ($3.4 billion).

T&E’s Archer points out, “This recent investigation follows eight previous cartel cases affecting the automotive sector that has resulted in cumulative fines of €4.5 billion ($5.2 billion).”