Volkswagen Group allegedly waged a campaign to "demolish" a Bosnian supplier by conspiring to freeze it out of the market and denigrate it in the press, according to a U.S. lawsuit.
Prevent Group claims in the lawsuit it was targeted by VW after a 2016 dispute tied to canceled orders for seat covers and transmission cases that forced the automaker to temporarily close plants in Germany making Golf and Passat cars and lay off workers.
Top VW officials, including Ralf Brandstaetter, head of VW brand, launched a conspiracy, code-named "Project 1," to drive Prevent Group out of business, according to the suit.
The aim was to send a "warning to other suppliers about what will happen if they stand up to VW's anticompetitive terms and prices," the Bosnian company said in the 56-page complaint, filed Monday in federal court in Detroit.
A former VW manager working on the project leaked taped conversations to the press about how to direct the company's car-seat contracts to another supplier, according to Prevent. VW asked prosecutors to investigate the leak of the tapes.
VW executives dismissed the suit as part of a failing legal effort to coerce the automaker into acknowledging Prevent's complaints. They said on Monday that the case was "meritless."
"We believe this new lawsuit is just the latest in a series of pressure tactics in a years-old dispute that follows extensive litigation in Germany, where Prevent Group has repeatedly lost in court," VW said in an emailed statement.