Several car dealerships have filed an antitrust class action against four Japanese automobile parts suppliers for allegedly rigging bids for lighting equipment sold to major car companies.
Mitsuba Corp., Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Ichikoh Industries Ltd. and Stanley Electric Co. are being sued in the putative class action of Martens Cars of Washington Inc. et al. v. Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd. et al., which the plaintiff car dealers filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
The plaintiffs allege that the defendants violated federal and state antitrust laws by conspiring to increase the price of automotive lamps – including headlights and taillights – by “preordaining winners and losers” in the bidding process.
The auto parts industry has recently been the focus of several investigations by antitrust enforcers on three continents.
Two of the companies, Koito and Ichikoh, were fined less than four months ago for this same type of alleged behavior by the Japanese Federal Trade Commission, Japan’s antitrust regulator. Koito was fined $36 million, and Ichikoh was fined $13.1 million.
An investigation into the auto parts industry by the U.S. Department of Justice has resulted in more than $800 million in fines and guilty pleas by several companies.
The European Commission, which is conducting a corresponding investigation, has announced that it has imposed fines of more than €141.7 million ($182 million) against companies that were found participating in cartels regarding automotive products.