BMW, Mercedes and VW investigated over emissions collusion

An investigation has been launched by the European Commission into whether BMW, Daimler and the VW Group, including Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche, colluded on the development and roll out of technology to clean the emissions of petrol and diesel cars.

In October 2017, the Commission carried out inspections at the premises of BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi in Germany as part of its initial inquiries into possible collusion between car manufacturers on the technological development of passenger cars.

This latest investigation focusses on information gathered so far that indicates BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche, also called the “circle of five”, participated in meetings where they discussed among other things the development and deployment of technologies to limit harmful car exhaust emissions.

In particular, the Commission is assessing whether the companies colluded to limit the development and roll out of certain emissions control systems, namely: selective catalytic reduction (‘SCR’) systems to reduce harmful nitrogen oxides emissions from passenger cars with diesel engines; and ‘otto’ particulate filters (‘OPF’) to reduce harmful particulate matter emissions from passenger cars with petrol engines.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The Commission is investigating whether BMW, Daimler and VW agreed not to compete against each other on the development and roll-out of important systems to reduce harmful emissions from petrol and diesel passenger cars.

“These technologies aim at making passenger cars less damaging to the environment. If proven, this collusion may have denied consumers the opportunity to buy less polluting cars, despite the technology being available to the manufacturers.”

The investigation will aim to establish whether the conduct of BMW, Daimler and VW may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices, including agreements to limit or control technical development.

At this stage, the Commission has no indications that the parties coordinated with each other in relation to the use of illegal defeat devices to cheat regulatory testing.

The Commission’s formal investigation is only focussing on the emissions control systems. These were only some of the issues discussed by the circle of five, says the Commission. Numerous other technical topics were discussed, including common quality requirements for car parts, common quality testing procedures or exchanges concerning their own car models that were already on the market.

The “circle of five” also had discussions on the maximum speed at which the roofs of convertible cars can open or close, and at which the cruise control will work. Cooperation also extended to the area of crash tests and crash test dummies where the car companies pooled technical expertise and development efforts to improve testing procedures for car safety.

At this stage, the Commission does not have sufficient indications that these discussions between the “circle of five” constituted anti-competitive conduct that would merit further investigation. EU antitrust rules leave room for technical cooperation aimed at improving product quality.

The Commission’s in-depth investigation in this case concerns specific cooperation that is suspected to have aimed at limiting the technical development or preventing the roll-out of technical devices.

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Exol presents its first 1 million litre ‘Purchases Award’ to Chemodex

Exol Lubricants has awarded Chemodex a Certificate of Excellence for becoming the first distributor to hit one million litres of purchased Exol product within a calendar year.

The one million litre purchases award comes during a buoyant period of growth for the leading lubricants supplier, which has been reflected by the Nottinghamshire-based distributor embracing the full Exol range for the many industries it serves.

Due to a recent expansion of Chemodex’s delivery fleet, as well as the recruitment of more staff to its sales team, distribution of its newly-acquired bulk stock can be handled effectively and efficiently, with an extensive fleet enabling Chemodex to work within a 48-hour delivery service window within a 100 mile radius of its Worksop depot, distributing the wide range of Exol lubricants and oils.

Matthew Armstrong, Chemodex Operations Manager, said: “We’re delighted to be recognised by Exol in such a way. The support we receive from the company is excellent, from sales to technical, and it’s their quick decision making ability that enables us to take the Exol brand forward with confidence to our very diverse customer base.”

Steve Dunn, Exol sales director, said: “The demand from Chemodex and indeed our general customer base has been fantastic and seems to reflect the current trend for our product in various sized orders, from drums to larger order quantities such as intermediate bulk pump offs.

“Customers fully buy into our product and brand and want to purchase it from a trusted supplier like Exol, with the full technical support of our company and brand behind them.”

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RAPID Group founder sells to GROUPAUTO parent

Carlisle-based motor factor chain TMS has been sold to Alliance Automotive Group (AAG), the parent company of the GROUPAUTO and UAN buying groups.

The 24-branch factor is active over Northern England and Southern Scotland. Terms of the deal have not been announced.

TMS Motor Spares Ltd started life as Teviot Motor Factors Ltd in the 1970’s when two of the current Directors bought a factors franchise. A change of ownership led to TMS Motor Spares being set up in 1996 with a single branch (Annan). The business’ approach to trade factoring was a success and lead to expansion, resulting in the formation of the Rapid buying group in 2005.

AAG also announced the acquisition of three other Scottish single-branch factors that were already existing members. These are Livingston Autoparts Ltd, WD Motor Factors based in Dunfermline and Alloa-based Bridge Motor Factors.

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The Parts Alliance continues growth

Both Weston-super-Mare under The Parts Alliance brand and GSF Colchester have opened for business within two weeks of one another.

Blackpool also joined BBC Superfactors branch network back in June, after branches in Middlesbrough, Croydon, Leeds, Newcastle, Indian Queens and Durham have all been added since January.

The most recent three openings under three different brands demonstrate The Parts Alliance’s stated commitment to supporting member businesses develop its existing successful presences, aiming to marry local service with national strength.

GSF Colchester opened at the end of August and has a 5,500 sqft facility utilising four vans and two motorcycles for trade customers.

‘It’s great to get the doors open,’ said Emma Tiernan, divisional director at GSF Car Parts. ‘From day one, we’ve had trade accounts open and deliveries going out so it’s been a really positive start.’

Steve Gray, divisional director of The Parts Alliance has overseen the opening of the largest site. The Parts Alliance Weston-super-Mare has opened with extensive stock holding over 6,500sqft premises.

‘We’re working with four delivery vehicles initially,’ said Steve. ‘Weston-super-Mare is a key strategic location, we’ll be supporting trade to independent garage customers and national accounts in the surrounding area too.’

All of the sites feature split level storage with room to expand as business grows.

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Richard Clarke returns to MAHLE Aftermarket UK

MAHLE Aftermarket has appointed Richard Clarke as its new Head of Technical, Product Marketing & Customer Services & Regional Sales Manager, bringing an impressive track record and a wealth of experience from within both MAHLE and the automotive sector to the team.

Working at MAHLE’s head office in Bilston, West Midlands, Clarke has sixteen years’ experience in the industry, having started his career at Partline as a Sales Trainee in 2002.

Five years ago, he joined MAHLE as Regional Manager of Car & Light Commercial, where he flourished in his role, gaining several plaudits including Victor Reinz® Salesman of the Year and MAHLE Salesman of the Year, before being promoted to Head of Sales for UK for Workshop Equipment, selling more air conditioning units than any MAHLE entity.

In 2014, he became MAHLE’s Area Sales Manager – South Africa and Surrounding Countries where he was responsible for setting up the new MAHLE Southern African Branch in Port Elizabeth, before becoming Head of MAHLE Aftermarket Sub-Saharan Africa until June 2018.

Jonathan Walker, Managing Director of MAHLE Aftermarket UK Ltd, said: “It’s a pleasure to welcome such a seasoned professional as Richard to our team, especially someone who is already so well-versed in MAHLE’s culture, technical capabilities and wide customer base.

“His drive, enthusiasm and breadth of experience speak for themselves and we’re positive that his appointment will have a beneficial impact on the company here in the UK.”

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ECCO Safety Group EMEA appoints Hynek Jakubicek as Senior Product Manager

ECCO Safety Group is pleased to announce the appointment of Hynek Jakubicek for the position of Senior Product Manager in the EMEA region.

Hynek joins ECCO Safety Group from Alliance Automotive Group as Category Manager and has over 10 years of experience in the automotive industry. He has held several product management positions during his career in the UK and in the Czech Republic too.

“We are delighted to welcome Hynek into our team of experienced Product Managers. We are sure he will bring a wealth of new experience and knowledge with him to define product strategy, roadmaps and to introduce new product innovation to the business. Hynek will be responsible for the segmentation, pricing and a range of product categories” – states Marium Ali, Director of Marketing and Product Management at ESG EMEA.

“It’s an exciting time to join ESG and I look forward to working with the team across the business to take advantage of profitable opportunities within our portfolio. I’m passionate about Product Management that I’ve gained in the automotive industry and I am sure that together with my colleagues we will make a difference. – added Hynek Jakubicek.

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Electric bin lorries to be trialled by Veolia

Veolia will be trialling electric refuse collection vehicles (RCV) in Sheffield charged by power derived from the waste they have collected.

The project will see two 26 tonne RCV converted from diesel to electric power in a scheme to accelerate the transition to zero emission heavy goods vehicles.

In the future these vehicles will be charged using the electricity generated from the non-recyclable household waste that fuels the city’s energy recovery facility.

Converting the RCV, which need replacing, is an effective way of extending the life of an existing vehicle by changing the diesel engine for electric power, says Veolia.

The project is backed by a grant from the Innovation Funding Service (Innovate UK) which will enable two repowered RCV to be trialled over the next two years.

The lorries will be powerful enough to negotiate 25% gradients on hills even when fully loaded, and are expected to be converted and operational by the end of the year. The project will also convert an additional two RCV that will be used in trials in London.

Gary Clark, Veolia’s UK fleet director, said: “This project highlights Veolia’s strong commitment to clean air initiatives as we look to improve the environment in our cities.

“By working closely with our customers to deliver fleet solutions that lower emissions we help them ensure they deliver real value for money, and limit costs for local tax payers.

“By recharging the vehicles from the Energy Recovery Facility this approach also show how local authorities and the public sector can drive sustainability and use green energy to address their environmental challenges.”

Demonstrating Veolia’s commitment to reduce emissions this latest move to decarbonise vehicles follows the recent introduction of zero emission electric street sweeping vehicles.

The five new electric sweepers will save 78 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the environment each year, which is the equivalent to removing 33 passenger cars from the road.

The company has also introduced electric powered eco-vans to hospital contracts in Liverpool and Southport to make hospital day-to-day work more environmentally friendly. These are recharged using the low carbon electricity generated by the hospital combined heat and power (CHP) plants managed by Veolia.

Other low emission compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles operate in Camden, where they carry out graffiti removal, and these vehicles refuel from Veolia’s brand new compressed natural gas (CNG) refuelling station.

With a focus on supplying green energy the energy recovery facility in Sheffield, generates electricity for the National Grid and heat for the city’s award winning district heating network.

Configured as a combined heat and power plant it also supplies heat and hot water to over 150 buildings including the Town Hall, Crucible Theatre and Weston Park Museum.

Sheffield’s approach means that it sends less than 1% of its household waste to landfill, one of the lowest figures in the UK.

Veolia collects Sheffield’s non-recyclable household waste (black bin waste) and sends this to the Energy Recovery Facility, where it’s burnt to produce enough electricity for over 22,600 homes.

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Tracking employees and GDPR

Lawgistics, who provide the legal helpline to IAAF members, have highlighted a recent case where a long-serving employee recently complained about the tracker on his company vehicle in light of the GDPR. Lawgistics clarify below the impact GDPR will have on the use of trackers in company vehicles.

The information from a vehicle tracking device is personal data as defined by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), i.e. any information relating to an identifiable person who can be directly or indirectly identified. Location data is included in the definition. This means that although there is a legitimate interest in collecting the data, its use is strictly confined to stated organisational purposes only and a clear workplace vehicle tracking policy is essential.

Company vehicles are usually fitted with tracking devices using GPS for insurance purposes. It can be an absolute requirement for insurance or it can bring down insurance costs. However, tracker devices offer other benefits to companies in terms of operational efficiencies, as well as safety and security benefits.

An employer is entitled to use tracking devices in company vehicles, but it is a good idea to have a clear workplace policy setting out the details of the nature and extent of monitoring and each employee should consent in writing to the presence of the device. The policy should clarify what private use can be made of vehicles provided by, or on behalf of, the employer, and any conditions attached to use. The trackers should have privacy buttons.

It is important that workers using the vehicles are aware of the policy. It should be completely transparent, and all employees should be aware of the presence of tracking devices in the vehicles the use. The purpose of the devices should be clearly explained and the rules on their use including what data the system can provide and how the data gathered will be used by managers, supervisors, the Transport Unit, and even clients and the general public in certain circumstances.

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Emissions cheat devices targeted by DVSA

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has announced it is checking lorries for emissions cheat devices, with the nationwide rollout of enforcement action.

It follows a successful year-long pilot that saw DVSA enforcement staff catch 449 emission cheats during roadside enforcement checks at five sites across the country.

A lorry fitted with such a device can produce up to 20 times more dangerous emissions.

DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn said: “DVSA’s priority is to protect everyone from unsafe vehicles and drivers.

“A vehicle doesn’t have to be falling apart to be unsafe – any driver or operator who uses cheat devices to get around emissions rules is putting the health of the entire nation at risk.

“DVSA will take the strongest possible action against anyone who tries to cheat emissions rules.”

Emissions cheat devices are used to allow a vehicle to run without a working AdBlue system. AdBlue is used to break harmful emissions down into simple oxygen and nitrogen, rendering them harmless.

A working AdBlue system can cut a vehicle’s harmful emissions by as much as 95%.

Drivers caught with an emissions cheat device or a faulty emissions control system have 10 days to remove the device and repair their emissions system.

If they continue to use a device or fail to repair the system, they could get a £300 fixed penalty fine and have their vehicle immediately taken off the road.

DVSA will then conduct a follow up investigation with the operator and may refer its findings to the Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain, who have the power to strip a company of its licence to operate.

The rollout follows the publication of Defra’s Clean Air Strategy 2018 and The Department for Transport’s Road to Zero strategy for reducing road emissions.

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New Automotive Sector Analysis Report

Atradius, one of the panel of providers used by Financial & Credit Insurance Services for the IAAF credit insurance scheme, has just issued an Automotive Sector analysis report.

Atradius has agreed for this document to be shared, and it can be downloaded from the link below.

Whilst the report does focus predominantly on the VM side of the industry, it does give some insight into how they view the on-going risks following Brexit for the whole industry.

There are full reports on China, France, the UK and the USA, with overviews of Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

Atradius Auto MM-0918

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