Antitrust regulators raid exhaust makers

BRUSSELS -- European Union antitrust regulators raided Tenneco Inc. and several other auto exhaust systems makers in the latest crackdown against suspected price fixing in the global auto industry.

Also raided was French supplier Faurecia.

The European Commission said the companies may have taken part in a cartel and abused their dominance. It did not name the companies or the countries where the raids took place.

But Faurecia, which is 52 percent owned by PSA Peugeot Citroen, confirmed the EU raids and said it is cooperating with the authorities. It said the company's "strict code of ethics" forbids price fixing or any other breaches of competition law.

Tenneco, of suburban Chicago, also said regulators in Europe and the United States asked for information "as part of an ongoing global antitrust investigation concerning multiple automotive suppliers."

The company said EU officials were at Tenneco GmbH's Edenkoben, Germany, office gathering information for the probe.

"Tenneco has also received a related subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice," the company said. "The company is fully cooperating with the authorities and cannot comment further due to the ongoing investigation."

German exhaust system maker Eberspaecher also said it was cooperating with EU authorities.

The raids do not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behavior, the European Commission said in a statement.

Regulators in the United States, Japan, Europe and Canada have levied fines in recent years against car parts makers for fixing prices of products including seat belts, radiators, windshield wipers and air-conditioning systems.

In the United States, the ongoing probe by the DOJ's antitrust unit has resulted in the prosecution of 29 executives and 26 companies -- and fines of more than $2.25 billion. The latest prosecution was announced a month ago.

The European Commission can fine companies as much as 10 percent of their global revenue for breaching EU rules. It is investigating cartels involving more than 100 car parts by more than 70 automakers.

This month it hit German engineering group Schaeffler, Sweden's SKF and three Japanese car parts makers with a total $1.3 billion fine for taking part in a ball bearings cartel.

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