Germany’s biggest car manufacturers shares plunged in early trading as investors digested allegations about decades of collusion between Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler.
Investors dumped the shares after reports, which first appeared in the German press late on Friday afternoon, claiming the companies may have secretly worked together on technology, forming a cartel that could have led to the “dieselgate” emission scandal.
The allegations come just days after Daimler recalled more than 3m of its Mercedes Benz cars for work to lower their emissions. The week before, Audi – which is owned by Volkswagen – recalled 850,000 vehicles.
Over the weekend the European Commission said it was looking into the claims. If it does investigate and finds evidence of a cartel, the car makers could face multi-billion euro penalties.
German authorities are already investigating, with Spiegel magazine, which first reported the claims, saying that evidence of collusion was uncovered by chance when prosecutors raided VW offices looking into suspicions of a separate cartel involving steel.
Between them the three car giants have had about €10bn wiped off their value since the news first broke.
BMW and Daimler have been dragged into the scandal that engulfed VW after it was discovered 11m of its cars worldwide were fitted with “defeat devices”.