WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co. has taken one of its Japanese suppliers to court over claims that the supplier took part in a long-running conspiracy to fix prices of key wiring components.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, July 16, in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleges that Fujikura Ltd. and a suburban Detroit subsidiary, Fujikura Automotive America, coordinated with other suppliers from January 2000 until at least February 2010 to set artificially high prices on wire harnesses supplied to Ford.
Ford says in the lawsuit that it spent $10 billion over that period on wire harnesses, which link all of the electronic systems built into vehicles, and "was forced to pay substantially higher prices for wire harnesses than it would have paid absent the conspiratorial conduct."
The lawsuit does not say how much Ford believes it lost, but the automaker wants its money back. The lawsuit seeks triple damages for Ford's losses, as allowed by law.
A spokeswoman for Fujikura did not reply to a message seeking comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is among a series of allegations of global price-fixing and bid-rigging in the multibillion-dollar market for wire harnesses, which Ford describes as "the nerve center of every vehicle."
A government probe became known to the public in 2010, when FBI agents raided the U.S. offices of Yazaki North America Inc., Denso International America Inc. and Tokai Rika Group North America.
So far, the U.S. Department of Justice says 10 companies and 15 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the investigation and have agreed to pay a total of $828 million in criminal fines. The latest company ensnared was Diamond Electric Manufacturing of Osaka, Japan, which will plead guilty to price-fixing charges and pay a $19 million fine, the department said.
The probe could spread further. The investigation "has grown over time and is broader than what we've announced so far," Scott Hammond, the deputy assistant attorney general, said in February.
The investigation also has spread to Europe. Reuters reported that the European Commission fined four wire-harness suppliers $182 million last week for their role in cartels that affected Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Renault.
The global market for wire harnesses was $26.9 billion in 2010, according to data from the market research firm Research in China cited in Ford's lawsuit.
Larry P. Vellequette and David Sedgwick contributed to this report.