Cartelization in the Automotive Industry and Bid Rigging in Procurement Auctions

Master's Thesis, 2016
78 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents

List of Abbreviations

Symbol Directory

1 Introduction

2 General Insights in the Automotive Industry
2.1 Definition and Delimitation of the Automotive Industry and its Sectors
2.2 Procurement and Bidding Processes in the Automotive Industry
2.3 The Automotive Industry in the European Union and Germany

3 Cartelization in the Automotive Industry
3.1 Car Part Cartels in the European Union
3.1.1 Car Glass – EC Case 39125
3.1.2 Automotive Bearings – EC Case 39922
3.1.3 Parking Heaters – EC Case 40055
3.2 Industry Analysis
3.2.1 Buyer Power and Strategies of Automotive Manufacturers
3.2.2 The Supplier Side of the Automotive Industry
3.2.3 Factors that Facilitate Collusion of Automotive Suppliers

4 Collusion in Auctions
4.1 Theoretical Foundation of Auction Theory
4.2 Auction Formats that Foster Collusion and Stability of Bidding Rings
4.2.1 Collusion in One-Shot Auctions
4.2.2 Collusion in Repeated Auctions
4.2.3 Implications for the Automotive Industry
4.3 Preventing Collusion in Auctions

5 Conclusion

6 References


List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Symbol Directory

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1 Introduction

It is incredible to see that, if one adds up one by one all the components which might be cartelized, this could
almost make a whole car!

Joaquin Almunia 2014: 1
Former Vice President of the European Commission responsible for competition policy

Cartelization in the automotive industry has become a serious issue. With a relatively small number of cases concerning anticompetitive practices in this industry sector in the 1980s and 1990s, the number of exposed cartels around the world has been significantly increasing since the 2000s. Especially the automotive supplier industry has been subject to numerous antitrust investigations. Today, on an almost weekly basis, reports about inspections of premises, ongoing investigations or convictions of automotive suppliers due to illegal collusive behavior against automotive manufacturers are released. Antitrust authority agencies like the European Commission, the US Department of Justice or the Japanese Fair Trade Commission investigate on a global scale to conquer such illegal actions and have imposed the highest fines in antitrust history against colluding car part manufacturers. Competition law infringements of automotive suppliers are extensive and encompass the fixing of prices, the rigging of bids, the allocation of markets, the redistribution of supplying contracts and the exchange of sensitive information. Especially the manipulation of procurement auctions has been observed to be a recurring attribute in recent cartel cases. As the quote from Joaquin Almunia states, today, artificially increased input costs can be found in almost every part or component of an automobile manufactured. However, the extent to which this problem affects the automotive industry and reduces welfare for the final customers cannot be estimated yet. Nevertheless, substantial cartelization can be found throughout the entire automotive supplier industry including small specialized second and third tier suppliers as well as large first tier suppliers managing to uphold their collusive agreements over many years. Especially the European Union (EU), with its great dependence on the automotive industry, has broaden its investigations on colluding automotive suppliers in order to protect this critical industry sector.

Due to the high importance of the automotive industry for the EU and the growing number of discovered automotive supplier cartels in this economic area, the purpose of the master thesis at hand is to analyze and display why cartelization – especially among automotive suppliers in the EU – is observed so frequently. Particularly, it investigates factors that facilitate collusion of car part manufacturers. Furthermore, it focuses on cartelization in procurement auctions as the touch point of automotive manufacturers and suppliers where collusive activities are executed. Hence, it examines the current state of theoretical research on collusive mechanism in auctions and provides implications for further research. Finally, it analyzes approaches to prevent collusion and assesses whether such measures are applicable to the automotive industry.

The thesis is structured as follows: After this introduction, chapter two defines the scope of the industry for this paper and provides a broad overview of its different sectors and significant players. In addition, due to their overall importance for the following analysis, procurement and bidding processes in the automotive industry are exhibited upfront. To emphasize the industry’s importance for the EU, an outline of the state of this industry sector in the EEA is given.

Building on that, chapter three presents a general introduction to cartelization in the automotive industry, followed by a presentation of three representative recent cartel cases in the EU: Car Glass, Automotive Bearings and Parking Heaters. This sets ground for a detailed analysis of the prevailing environment in the automotive industry. First, the analysis examines the manufacturer side including degrees of concentration, dominant strategies and effects of the automotive manufacturers’ market power. This is followed by an analysis of the supplier side regarding concentration and barriers to entry. Contingent on the analysis, factors that facilitate collusion in the automotive industry are summarized To introduce collusion in auctions, chapter four starts with an outline of the theoretical foundation of auction theory. Based on this, auction formats that foster collusion and stability of cartels are discussed. Furthermore, the most relevant incentive compatible mechanisms are introduced distinguishing between one-shot and repeated auction games. This literature overview is followed by a discussion on how the prevailing models can be applied to the automotive industry and whether further research needs to be conducted. The main part of the thesis finishes with the current state of research about approaches to minimize the risk of collusion in auctions. It is assessed how those approaches can or cannot be applied to the automotive industry. Last, a final conclusion summarizes the most important findings of the thesis at hand.

2 General Insights in the Automotive Industry

To establish an understanding of the automotive industry, its peculiarities and the resulting problems, it is essential to elucidate its general structure, display the relationships between different players, their tasks and the prevailing procurement methods. The following chapter defines the scope of the industry for this paper and introduces its different sectors and significant players. In addition, the procurement and bidding processes within the automotive industry are exhibited. To show its relevance for the economic region, an overview of the state of this industry sector in the EU is given.

2.1 Definition and Delimitation of the Automotive Industry and its Sectors

The term “automotive industry” is used in many contexts. Hence, a universal definition does not exist in current language, literature or official statistics. Several approaches try to define the industry and differentiate its essential components within the general business environment. The scope of companies included differs vastly between various definitions. The German automotive industry association (VDA) defines the automotive industry as all manufacturers of automobiles and engines, trailers and substructures as well as manufacturers of automotive parts and equipment (VDA 2006: 182). While this definition focuses on companies directly or indirectly involved in the production process, other classifications also encompass downstream sectors, considering the entire value chain. Brachat et al. (2012: 19) for example state that the “automotive industry includes all companies involved in production, marketing, maintenance as well as disposal of automobiles, automotive parts and automotive services”. Due to the predominant just-in-time processes in modern automotive manufacturing, logistic services are often seen as an integral part of the industry (Diez 2009: 17). With the main focus of the paper at hand lying primarily on automotive manufacturers and their suppliers, this thesis uses the term “automotive industry” in the sense of the VDA definition.

The traditional view on the automotive industry is based on a vertical value chain which consists of three levels: suppliers, automotive manufacturers and complementary manufacturers (OEMs)[1] and sales and services (Brachat et al. 2012: 21). Even though this paper concentrates on the first two levels of the supply chain, the third level should be introduced briefly since some car part cartels do not only affect the OEM level but often also the aftermarket.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Traditional view of the automotive industry along vertical value creating stages (own illustration, modeled after Brachat et al. 2012: 21).

On the first stage of the value chain are the automotive suppliers, also called Original Equipment Suppliers (OES). This stage includes all economic entities providing industrial primary products or services to downstream OEMs and complementary manufacturers. Literature classifies car part manufacturers according to a supplier’s position in the value chain, determined by the goods and services he delivers to his customers. This differentiation is often used in practice to classify different suppliers and their role in the supply chain. Thus, it is necessary to take a closer look at the structure of the OES level. Usually three groups of suppliers are distinguished and structured hierarchically according to their importance for the OEM: first-tier, second-tier and third-tier suppliers.

Third-tier suppliers are production suppliers manufacturing normed parts with a high degree of standardization on the behalf of the customer. The production processes are characterized by a low technical level and minimal development activities which are already undertaken by the customer. Examples for third-tier products are screws, pipes or springs (Schulte 2012: 219). Third-tier suppliers typically act as sub-suppliers for second and first-tier upstream suppliers who use the products to build more complex parts, systems or modules. Therefore, a third-tier supplier’s degree of assembling activities is relatively low (Becker 2005: 168). It can be argued, raw material suppliers like steel mills or plastic manufacturers are also part of this level in the supply chain. However, this would imply that practically all industry and service sectors are part of the automotive industry. Consequently, most authors exclude these manufacturers from the definition since the scope of companies taken into consideration would become too vast (Brachat et al. 2012).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2: Idealistic structure of suppliers in the automotive industry (own illustration, modeled after Wagner 2006: 28)

Second-tier suppliers on the other hand provide first-tier suppliers and OEMs with premanufactured subgroups and components e.g. more complex electrical or mechanical parts like switches, particle filters or dashboards (Schulte 2012: 219). In general, second-tier suppliers are characterized by a very specialized range of products, particularly creative and technological solutions are invented on this level of the supply chain. Unlike production suppliers, second-tier suppliers initiate product inventions independently, without explicit orders and instructions from OEMs on their own risk. For this reason, second-tier suppliers are often able to establish temporary monopoly positions in their niche segment (Roth 2012: 34; Becker 2005: 169). Examples for second-tier suppliers in the automotive industry are Stüken[2], a manufacturer for deep-drawn parts, or Katek[3] who produces automotive roof antennas.

First-tier suppliers can be divided in two groups. Module suppliers and system integrators. Module suppliers merge single parts from downstream manufacturers into a finished product which can be installed directly by OEMs. Therefore, module suppliers exhibit a high degree of assembling but undertake relatively few developing activities. High integration competences are required from module manufacturers since they assume the full logistic responsibilities of manufacturing processes. System integrators, on the other hand, also undertake preassembling activities, however, unlike module manufacturers, they initiate own research and development of new modules and systems (Becker 2005: 169). For example, the automotive group of the Continental AG develops entire engine or transmission systems independently and invests in research for new technologies like autonomous driving allowing them to sell their products to a large variety of OEMs.[4]

It should be noted that this hierarchical scheme of suppliers in the automotive industry is not completely applicable in practice because most of the time suppliers offer a large variety of products and services. With each product having different levels of complexity or specifications from OEMs, a clear assignment of a supplier to one of the tiers is not always possible. In addition, nowadays traditional hierarchical structures get more and more replaced by networks between suppliers and automotive manufacturers dissolving the traditional pyramid structure (Gehr and Hellingrath 2007: 3). Nevertheless, it provides a good approach to display the different roles of suppliers in the automotive industry.

Automotive and complementary manufacturers represent the second value creation stage. As already stated, prior literature frequently summarizes members of this stage under the term “Original Equipment Manufacturers” (OEMs). That is due to the large proportion of premanufactured components and parts used by these companies to assemble the final product. Therefore, Wallentowitz (2009: 1) defines automotive manufacturers as companies combining premanufactured and internal manufactured parts, components, modules or systems etc. to create a fully assembled vehicle and introduce it to the market. On the same stage as automotive manufacturers are complementary manufacturers. Those include producers for trailers, substructures or car bodies and are typically focused on commercial vehicles. OEMs are the center of the automotive industry since they have comprehensive influence on the product as well as on the marketing side of the automotive market (Brachat et al. 2012: 20).

The third and last stage of the automotive industry’s value chain is represented by entities that distribute and market the finished automobiles but also provide maintenance or repair services on the aftermarket. Typically, two forms of distribution channels are to be found in the automotive market: direct and indirect distribution channels. Direct distribution includes manufacturer-owned entities or distributers who are contracted to OMEs. These overtake sells and marketing activities as well as provide after-sell services like maintenance or customer service. Indirect distribution channels are independent from the manufacturers and often concentrate on sales of used cars and on technical service for older automobiles (Graf 2008: 7–8).

2.2 Procurement and Bidding Processes in the Automotive Industry

As shown in the following analysis, standardized procurement and bidding processes are one of the main factors that directly facilitate the formation of cartels among automotive suppliers. A comprehensive explanation of those processes upfront is essential to understand why collusion in this industry happens so frequently. The narrow vertical range of production makes procurement activities critical for automotive manufacturers and large first-tier suppliers. Well defined purchase and supplier selection processers are not only necessary to ensure an uninterrupted supply chain and production but also became a main driver for saving costs and time. Procurement processes and methods are virtually identical among companies in the automotive industry and can broadly be divided into three phases: supplier selection, request for quotation and subsequent negotiations.

The supplier selection starts with the definition of the supplier portfolio. Supplier portfolios of OEMs are classified according to different material and product groups and distinguished between regular and potential suppliers. Additional requirements in the selection process are due to the strategical importance of components and therefore its supplier for the production process. Automotive manufacturers use additional selection and cooperation models to minimize their risk, particularly for critical modules and systems being produced by just a few specialized OESs. In general, the supplier selection process is widely similarly structured over different material or product groups and companies. After an initial evaluation, suppliers are ranked into three classes: preferred suppliers, suppliers that have to be developed and denied suppliers (Wedeniwski 2015: 144). The evaluation is conducted by an interdisciplinary team (e.g. purchase, development, logistics) and usually starts with a general request for information (RFI) to a supplier. This assures that information about products, services, capabilities and the current situations as a whole can be gathered and evaluated in a timely manner. Some automotive manufacturers even use on-site assessments of the supplier’s production facilities. OESs passing the requirements of manufacturers are registered and considered as possible candidates for upcoming contract awards. In addition, those registered suppliers are constantly monitored, evaluated and compared to each other based on a series of pre-defined criteria and if necessary are removed from the supplier portfolio (Beil 2010: 6–10).

The actual procurement process for different car parts is usually issued through an auction. As a first step, based on the initial evaluation, OEMs send out a request for quotations (RFQ)[5] to suitable suppliers who can submit offers for the development, production and supply for the required component. An RFQ includes specifications about the scope of volume, target price per piece, technical product attributes and qualifications an OES has to fulfil in order to get the contract. A supplier attending the bidding is often obligated to provide an additional RFI including a detailed listing of his cost structure, such as development and tooling costs, as well as productivity gains that can be internalized over the contract period (European Commission 2008b: 18). Today RFQs are mostly issued through online bidding events (OBE). These auctions usually follow the same principle. The suppliers are noticed about the specific date and duration of the RFQ auction and receive the corresponding specification sheets. This happens two or three weeks in advance to give the chosen suppliers the chance to calculate their offers. On the date of the auction suppliers participate using the manufacturer’s online platform. The different parties of the auction are often able to see the submitted anonymized bids of their competitors and have the chance to adjust their offers as often as they want. At the end of the auction, which lasts about 30 to 50 minutes, the manufacturer awards the contract to one or multiple suppliers who according to the RFQ requirements have submitted the best offer (Kotler and Schellhase 2011: 351–353). Besides the lowest unit price as the main factor contributing to the selection of a supplier, OEMs also include factors such as costs for tooling, development, quality management or logistics (Eichstädt 2008: 20–21).

Furthermore, the stage of request for quotations involves the choice of a sourcing strategy. Sourcing strategies are distinguished between single, dual and multiple sourcing. While manufacturers with a single sourcing strategy award a supply contract to just one supplier, OEMs with a dual or multiple sourcing strategy divide the order volume among the selected suppliers. Based on the bidding results, the supplier with the most favorable offer is nominated to get the larger share of the supply contract. These strategies are used widely by OEMs to ensure supply security and increase competition among suppliers to optimize the price. In another form of multiple sourcing strategy, for example in the sourcing processes for car glass (see chapter 3.1.1), a car set[6] is split and the required parts are allocated among the selected OESs (European Commission 2008b: 19; Roth 2012: 38).

At last, in subsequent negotiations with the selected suppliers, manufacturers set the boundaries of the final contract. These negotiations can last for a couple of weeks, but also have been observed to last for a year. Subsequent negotiations include the duration of the contract relationship – mostly over the life circle of the part or component –, rationalization measures including annual price reductions (APR) and overtaking additional developing tasks, delivery times coupled to an OEM’s just-in-time or just-in-sequence processes and regulations about the distribution of tooling costs. When both parties have agreed on the terms, the contract is signed (Meißner 2012: 12).

2.3 The Automotive Industry in the European Union and Germany

The primary basis of this paper is the analysis of the automotive industry in the EU. Additional focus is laid on Germany as Europe’s largest manufacturer for automobiles and automotive parts. Therefore, the following chapter provides a short overview of the current state of the industry in Europe and Germany and displays the importance of the automotive industry for this economic area.

Over the last century the automotive industry has become one of the most important industries in the world. With an exponentially growing, global population and increasing prosperity in developing and emerging countries, the demand for mobility remains unbroken. Economies like China, the US and the EU fuel the demand for new cars constantly and consequently keep up the global production.[7] With 72.35 million passenger cars sold worldwide in 2015 a new record was reached and forecasts expect this number to increase steadily over the next decade.[8]

One of the main beneficiaries and driver of this industry is the EU. The automotive industry has been one of the fastest growing manufacturing sectors in Europe and become an essential part of its economic environment generating about 4% of the EU’s annual GDP (Vošta and Kocourek 2015: 1).[9] It is estimated that in 2014 23% (15.7 million units) of all passenger cars produced worldwide (68.56 million units) were manufactured in the European Economic Area (EEA), ranking the EU second behind China (ACEA 2015: 19).[10] A large portion of these cars are manufactured for export. With over 6 million motor vehicles sold to foreign countries in 2014[11], the European automotive industry generated one third of the EU’s trade surplus which was around €95.1 billion (ACEA 2015: 50; European Commission 2014b: 33). Furthermore, the automotive industry is of great importance for the European labor market. It accounts for more than 3.1 million jobs in manufacturing for European citizens, making up for 10.4% of the total EU employment in the manufacturing sector. Taking an even broader approach and including also non-manufacturing jobs like services (sales, aftersales and financing) and construction of infrastructure into the calculation, 12.1 million jobs in the EU are currently directly and indirectly connected to the automotive industry. This equals 5.6% of the total EU employment (ACEA 2015: 13).

Particularly Germany is a driving force in Europe’s automotive industry. With a production of around 5.7 million passenger cars and an annual industry revenue of €404.4 billion in 2015 it is by far the biggest producer of automobiles and automotive parts.[12] Its dominant position within the European automotive industry is uncontestable and other European countries tail wide behind, as Spain follows with an annual production of 2.21 million units and the United Kingdome with 1.59 million vehicles.[13] France with the second largest industry revenue in Europe of €102.1 billion just generated a third of Germany’s revenue in 2012 (Statista 2015a: 43).[14] With over a 1000 companies in Germany directly affiliated with the automotive industry[15], it is the biggest producing sector in the republic and is therefore of great importance for the German labor market (Statista 2015a: 10). The German automotive industry employs more than 785,000 people, which makes it Germany’s largest employing industry. (VDA 2015: 19).
With every fifth car in the world manufactured by a German automotive brand and 77% of the cars produced in Germany being designated for foreign markets, the German automotive industry relies heavily on exports. Thus, two third (€236,8 billion) of the annual industry revenue in 2015 were generated through export activities.[16] Especially high quality, innovative premium models of German automotive manufacturers are in worldwide demand. Innovations and technical developments are crucial for the success of German automotive manufacturers and suppliers in the global market. It is estimated that a third of Germany’s whole R&D expenditures in 2014 (€44.8 billion) were innovation investments from the automotive industry making the automotive industry the most innovative-intensive sector in the republic (Statista 2015a: 37–39). In 2014, for instance, in the German automotive sector 1987 patents were granted, which is 33% of the worldwide patents approved in this industry, ranking Germany first (Statista 2015b: 68).

These numbers demonstrate the crucial position of the automotive industry within the European Union. It provides numerous jobs and contributes significantly to the EU’s GDP. In addition, the automotive industry, due to the complexity of its products, creates comprehensive multiplayer effects that link to other economic sectors and have a far reaching impact on the EU’s entire economy. Especially Germany’s economy depends largely on this industry since it contributes substantially to Germany’s gross added value and labor market. With its international activities and pioneering innovations, the German automotive industry constantly shapes this global branch significantly making Germany one of the most important business locations of this sector. Considering the impact of the automotive industry on the EU and Germany it can be seen why cartelization of automotive suppliers is from great concern for the European commission’s antitrust authorities. Restricted competition not only results in high prices and sinking quality of products but also decreases innovativeness which is critical for the EU as an automotive industry hub. Nevertheless, particularly the end customer has to bear the negative impacts of a cartelized industry through higher prices of the final product (Bundeskartellamt 2015: 1).

3 Cartelization in the Automotive Industry

During the 1980s and 1990s the number of cartel cases in the automotive industry was relatively small. However, over the last decade the global automotive industry has been subject to numerous antitrust investigations and proceedings (Connor 2012: 1). Especially the number of cartel cases among automotive suppliers has increased significantly. As a result, antitrust authorities worldwide announced to expand their scope of investigation in this industry sector. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alone convicted more than 36 individual companies and imposed more than $2.4 billion in fines.[17] Other antitrust authorities such as the Japanese Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), the Koran Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) or the European Commission (EC), have also several ongoing investigations in the automotive supplying sector and convicted numerous colluding companies (Gibson Dunn 2015: 1–3).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3: Car parts affected by antitrust investigations of the DOJ, the EC and the JFTC (translation of Haas and Wiese 2014: 5 with permission to use the graphic).

The extent to which this problem affects the automotive industry and reduces welfare for the final customers cannot be estimated yet. It is assumed that artificially increased input costs can be found in almost every part or component of an automobile manufactured. The consulting company AlixPartners calculated – excluding fixed steel prices – by now around 25-30% of a car’s martial costs for automotive manufacturers are caused by illegal price fixing of the OES (Haas and Wiese 2014: 5). The collusive methods used by automotive suppliers are extensive and range from price fixing and bid rigging to allocation of markets, redistribution of supplying contracts and exchange of sensitive information. Substantial cartelization runs throughout the whole automotive supplier industry and can be found among small specialized third-tier and second-tier suppliers as well as among large first-tier suppliers. For instance, Bosch, the largest OES for car parts, was recently convicted by the DOJ to pay a criminal fine of $57.8 million for price fixing and bid rigging for spark plugs, oxygen sensors and starter motors.[18] Likewise, Continental, the world’s second largest supplier, pleaded guilty after charges of the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) for rigging bids of instrument penal clusters.[19] Even though first-tier suppliers are involved in collusive actions on their own, they also increasingly become victims of illegal price and bid rigging agreements of their own suppliers, as for example the bearing cartel discussed in section 3.1.3 demonstrates.

3.1 Car Part Cartels in the European Union

Cartelization of automotive suppliers is a global problem affecting almost every car producing economy. Since a comprehensive analysis of car part cartels in a global context would exceed the scope of this paper, the focus is laid on cartelization of automotive suppliers in the EU. To set the frame for the sequent analysis to identify factors that facilitate collusive behavior, the following chapter provides an overview of the recent and most representative car part cartel cases in the EEA.

Especially for the EU, with its dependence on the automotive industry, eliminating collusive behavior to secure its international competitiveness and increase the welfare for customers, is of great importance. Joaquin Almunia (2014: 1), the former Vice President of the European Commission, described the “ongoing probe in the European Union with more than a 100 products and more than 70 companies investigated by the Commission” as “one of the largest cartel investigations ever conducted in a particular sector.” Inspections of automotive suppliers’ premises are executed by EC authorities or other local antitrust institutions on a regular basis. Current investigations range from exhaust systems, seat belts, airbags, steering wheels to engine cooling systems and acoustically effective components.[20] High fines for anticompetitive conduct have already been imposed on colluding suppliers. For example, members of the Car Glass Cartel were charged a sum of €1.35 billion for colluding against almost every OEM in the EU over a five-year period. This verdict against Saint Gobain, a French manufacturer for car glass, includes the highest fine ever imposed against an individual company in EU history of €880 million.[21]

The primary legal foundation for prosecution of cartels in the EU is defined in Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union prohibiting concerned practices and agreed undertakings among legal entities in the EEA, such as price fixing, coordination of transactions or sharing markets. In addition, numerous secondary legally binding instruments like regulations, derivatives or decisions set the frame for legal prosecution of cartelization in the EU which, however, are not discussed any further in this paper. The amount of the fine a guilty party has to pay in case of collusion, is based on its total annual turnover. Yet, the fine must not exceed 10% of the calculation base. In case a parent company influenced the decisions of a colluding subsidiary in the time of the infringement, having been the case in most of the cartels in the automotive industry, the fine is set according to the group’s total turnover. (EUR-Lex 2015: 1; European Commission 2011: 1).

Cartelization, due to its secret nature, is hard to be detected. Leniency programs are one of the main tools of the EC to expose cartels and have been proven to be effective in the automotive industry. Companies involved in cartelization are offered full or partial immunity from fines (75 to 100%) if they report themselves to the Commission and hand in evidence before an investigation has begun. In addition, if a company that is already under investigation cooperates with the antitrust authorities before official charges are issued, the fine can be reduced by 50 to 75%. Still both cases require a company to discontinue all collusive activities immediately and to be the first of the colluding entities who reports the infringement (Motta 2004: 194; Neyrinck 2009: 3).

In the following EU cartel cases are presented to give a general idea of scope, methods and constellation of car part cartels in the EEA. Since the course and practices of the different cartels in the European Union are widely similar, the presentation is limited to three representative cases which exhibit features that distinguish these from each other. The respective cases are: Car Glass, Bearings and Parking Heaters. For the sake of completeness, a summary of recent closed cases of colluding automotive suppliers in the EU is given in the following:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Table 1: Cartel cases in the EU’s automotive supplier industry from 2008 to 2015 (own table).

3.1.1 Car Glass – EC Case 39125

In 2008 the EC convicted four car glass manufacturers – Saint-Gobain (FR), Pilkington (GB), Asahi (JPN) and Soliver (BE)[22] – for prohibited allocation of supply contracts, predetermination of market shares, exchange of sensitive information, price fixing and bid rigging in RFQ processes. The collusion took mainly place between the “Big Three” Saint-Gobain – who can be seen as the leader of the infringement – Asahi and Pilkington. Soliver just participated in a few collusive actions. After an anonymous tip, the EC started investigations in 2005 and imposed, based on their findings, a record penalty of €1.383 billion on the respecting companies for colluding over a period of 5 years from 1998 to 2003. Over the time of the infringement Saint-Gobain, Pilkington and Asahi were the three largest car glass manufacturers in world. Together they controlled about 90% of the car glass used for new vehicles and the aftermarket in the EEA, which was at this time approximately a €2 billion market. The commission estimated that, during the time of collusion, Saint-Gobain had an average market share between 40 and 50%, Pilkington between 30 and 40%, Asahi between 15 and 25% and Soliver less than 5% (European Commission 2008a: 1, 2008b: 14).


[1] Original Equipment Manufacturers

[2] For more information, see (accessed 30.03.2016).

[3] For more information, see (accessed 30.03.2016).

[4] For more information, see Continental: (accessed 30.03.2016).

[5] Other expressions used synonymously in literature are request for proposal (RFP) or request for bid (RFB).

[6] All different pieces of a component needed for one car model.

[7] Cf. VDA: (accessed on 01.04.2016).

[8] Cf. AlixPartners and Scotia Bank:, page 2 (accessed on 01.04.2016).

[9] Cf. EC: (accessed on 01.04.2016).

[10] Cf. OCIA: (accessed on 01.04.2016).

[11] Cf. ACEA: (accessed on 01.04.2016).

[12] Cf. Destatis:;jsessionid=60DD30D05CCF50A21E6464DCD234F3B4.tomcat_GO_2_2?operation=abruftabelleBearbeiten&levelindex=2&levelid=1362412637692&auswahloperation=abruftabelleAuspraegungAuswaehlen&auswahlverzeichnis=ordnungsstruktur&auswahlziel=werteabruf&selectionname=42111-0003&auswahltext=%23SWZ08X2-WZ08-29%2CWZ08-30&nummer=13&variable=1&name=WZ08X2&werteabruf=We (accessed on 01.04.2016).

[13] Cf. OICA: (accessed on 01.04.2016).

[14] More recent data for the France automotive industry revenue is not available yet.

[15] Cf. Destatis:;jsessionid=292EB92F97F085F00FCA7BDF72A16677.tomcat_GO_2_2?operation=previous&levelindex=2&levelid=1461831609322&step=2 (accessed on 02.04.2016).

[16] Cf. VDA: (accessed on 02.04.2016).

[17] DOJ: (accessed on 28.04.2016).

[18] Cf. DOJ: (accessed on 28.04.2016).

[19] Cf. KFTC:, page 48 (accessed on 28.04.2016).

[20] CF. EC and Bundeskartellamt:,,, (accessed 01.05.2016).

[21] Cf. EC cartel statistics: and EC press release (accessed 01.05.2016).

[22] For a full list of all involved subsidiaries see appendix 1. For reasons of simplification the following case presentation just refers to the headquarters.

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Cartelization in the Automotive Industry and Bid Rigging in Procurement Auctions
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen
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Kartel, cartelization, Automobilindustrie, Bid Rigging, Collusion, Automolbilzuliferer, Automobilzulieferer, Auktionen, Auktionsmodelle, collusion proof mechnisms, collusion proof mechanisms, Preisabsprachen, Auktionsmanipulation
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Johannes Gerhardt (Author), 2016, Cartelization in the Automotive Industry and Bid Rigging in Procurement Auctions, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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