Daimler, VW raided by European Union staff in widening cartel searches

Investigators from the European Union anti-trust watchdog searched the company's offices earlier this week, BMW said on Friday, in a sign an investigation into alleged collusion between German auto makers is being stepped up.

Last Friday, BMW said Brussels-based investigators had searched its headquarters as part of an inspection, adding it was assisting the Commission in its work.

The European Commission said it carried out visits at the premises of several vehicle manufacturers in Germany, accompanied by German antitrust officials.

The European Commission said on Friday that anti-trust officials had "carried out an unannounced inspection at the premises of a auto manufacturer in Germany".

Daimler was cooperating, said the commission which could accordingly offer the firm leniency in the case.

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The investigation came after a report in Der Spiegel in July that claimed BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi had held secret meetings since the 1990s to collude on certain technology.

BMW in July denied any collusion with industry rivals on emissions from its diesel engines, saying none of its models had been "manipulated" or violated industry regulations.

BMW tried to distance itself from any possibility of involvement in the emissions scandal that has badly dented Volkswagen's reputation and spread to other carmakers.

Expected checks by the European Union's executive arm are now taking place, a spokeswoman for Daimler said, after the Stuttgart-based automaker last Friday said it had claimed whistleblower status to avoid fines.

The statement did not identify the company. Among the areas Spiegel reported manufacturers collaborated on was the size of tanks for a liquid known as AdBlue, used to treat diesel exhaust fumes.

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