LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) -- EU competition regulators, in the latest development in an ongoing global price-fixing investigation, fined four wire harness suppliers a total of 141.8 million euros ($182 million) for taking part in cartels that affected Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Renault.
Yazaki, other wire harness suppliers fined $182 million in EU price-fixing probe
The European Commission said today that the companies took part in five cartels.
It imposed the biggest fine of 125 million euros on Yazaki, the world's No. 1 maker of wire harnessing systems, which power up the electronic components linking a vehicle's computers to various functions.
Yazaki's subsidiary S-Y Systems was fined 11 million euros, Furukawa Electric 4 million euros and Leoni 1.38 million euros.
Both Yazaki and Furukawa pleaded guilty to similar charges in the United States. Yazaki agreed to pay $470 million in fines through 2017 -- the second-largest criminal fine obtained for a Sherman Act antitrust violation.
Sumitomo Electric, the world's No. 2 wire harness supplier, was not fined because it alerted regulators to the existence of the cartel.
The Commission said car parts affected by the cartels were sold to Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Renault, with the cartels operating between 2000 and 2009.
"Such cartels may harm the competitiveness of the automotive industry and artificially inflate prices for final buyers of cars," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
The companies coordinated the prices and allocation of supplies of wire harnesses to the respective car manufacturers, the Commission said. The cartel contacts took place in Europe and Japan.
For Toyota and Honda, the participants rigged a series of tenders for the supply of wire harnesses, including all tenders for supplies to the European manufacturing facilities during the cartel period. For Nissan and Renault, the participants rigged – or attempted to rig – single tendering procedures for some individual models, according to the Commission.
Leoni said its involvement was confined to a single instance between May and December 2009 when a French subsidiary was involved in an isolated infringement. There was no harm to the customer and Leoni cooperated fully with the authorities, it said in a statement.
The fines for the suppliers were cut by 10 percent, on top of other discounts, after they admitted to taking part in the cartels.
The sanctions from the European Commission are expected to be the first of several against car parts suppliers, which are under investigation for fixing prices for products ranging from thermal systems to seat belts and ball bearings.
In the United States, nine companies and 14 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the U.S. Justice Department's multiyear investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the automotive parts industry.
Denso, Nippon Seiki Ltd., Tokai Rika Co. Ltd., Furukawa, Yazaki, G.S. Electech Inc., Fujikura Ltd., Autoliv Inc. and TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay a total of more than $809 million in criminal fines. Additionally, 12 individuals have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each.
In addition, civil lawsuits against several suppliers remain pending in U.S. courts.
Automotive News and Crain's Detroit Business contributed to this report
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