Germany’s biggest carmakers were already facing public criticism after an emissions cheating scandal at Volkswagen. Now, they are under formal investigation.
The European Commission opened an inquiry on Tuesday into possible collusion among BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen to prevent the development of clean emissions technology. The investigation adds to a series of problems for the German auto industry, the country’s biggest employer and exporter, which is grappling with the consequences of Volkswagen’s diesel deception, as well as a long-term shift toward electric vehicles and the threat of auto tariffs from the United States.
The announcement by the commission, the European Union’s executive arm, comes nearly a year after officials searched the German automakers’ offices as part of an initial inquiry into possible price fixing. The commission said on Tuesday that it had information indicating that the companies had participated in meetings where they discussed technology to limit harmful emissions. The investigation will try to establish whether the automakers sought to limit the development or rollout of systems to reduce harmful nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel cars or filters to reduce emissions from gasoline engine cars.
“These technologies aim at making passenger cars less damaging to the environment,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s competition commissioner, said in a statement. “If proven, this collusion may have denied consumers the opportunity to buy less-polluting cars, despite the technology being available to the manufacturers.”
The commission said it had no information indicating that the companies had coordinated over the use of illegal defeat devices in regulatory testing. German carmakers meet routinely to discuss technical standards for components, but these discussions might be deemed illegal if they agree to limit competition in certain areas.
In its statement, the commission named the three major carmakers, as well as the Volkswagen luxury units Audi and Porsche, as part of the inquiry. All three companies said they would not be commenting on the case, but were cooperating with investigators.
The companies — the commission referred to them as the “circle of five” — have spent decades promoting diesel engines, and are still struggling with the fallout of the emissions scandal in which some 11 million Volkswagen vehicles worldwide were fitted with illegal software that could detect when the cars were undergoing emissions tests.
As a result, sales of diesel cars across Europe have been falling, while sales of electric cars are growing sharply, a trend that German carmakers have been slow to capitalize on. BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen could also suffer if President Trump follows through on a threat to impose hefty tariffs on European cars imported into the United States.
Volkswagen, which has admitted to the cheating, in particular has not made sufficient progress in repairing the shortcomings in company culture that led to the scandal, according to a recent report by a lawyer appointed to monitor the company’s behavior.
This year, Munich prosecutors arrested Rupert Stadler, the head of Audi, and federal prosecutors in the United States indicted Martin Winterkorn, the former chief executive of Volkswagen, on charges that included conspiracy to defraud the government. Mr. Winterkorn has denied the charges.
The industry also has to deal with an increasingly tough regulatory environment as opposition to diesel engines grows: The German city of Hamburg banned older diesel cars from high-traffic areas because of health concerns, and other European cities are considering similar measures.
“The automotive industry was once a jewel in Europe’s industrial crown,” said Greg Archer, the clean-vehicles director at the advocacy group Transport and Environment, “but its global reputation is now deeply tarnished and cannot be trusted anymore.”
9-year-old genius to graduate university
(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.
Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.
Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.
He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.
His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.
“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.
Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.
While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.
But Lydia has her own theory.
“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.
The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.
“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.
“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”
Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.
“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”
Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”
His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.
“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.
“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”
While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.
“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”
Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.
However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.
In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.
Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.
New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne
Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem
Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.
The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.
Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.
🚨WANTED for ASSAULT: on 11/6 at approx 3:43 PM in front of 128 West 112th St in Manhattan, a 32 yr old male was walking with his 8 yr old son when a white BMW jumped the curb & hit the father & son. The driver then got out and slashed the father. Call @NYPDTips with any info. pic.twitter.com/cwd79rcM4c
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) November 15, 2019
Father and son were both knocked through a gate.
The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.
One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.
McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.
McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.
Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.
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