On 22 November 2017 the European Commission announced fines amounting to a total of €34 million on five car safety equipment suppliers as part of a settlement in a cartel case. The Commission found that the conduct constituted four separate infringements. Tokai Rika, Takata, Autoliv, Toyoda Gosei and Marutaka acknowledged their involvement in one or more of four cartels pertaining to the supply of car seat belts, airbags and steering wheels to Japanese car manufacturers Toyota, Suzuki and Honda in the European Economic Area (EEA). The five suppliers exchanged sensitive information and coordinated prices or markets relating to the supply of car components. This conduct took place outside the EEA, notably in Japan, but the cartel may have had a significant impact on European customers given the number of cars sold in Europe produced by Japanese companies and that Toyota, Suzuki and Honda all have manufacturing plants in the EEA.
Takata received full immunity for revealing three of the cartels, thereby avoiding an aggregate fine of approximately €74 million. Similarly, Tokai Rika received full immunity for bringing one of the cartels to the Commission’s attention, avoiding an aggregate fine of approximately €15 million. Tokai Rika, Takata, Autoliv and Toyoda Gosei benefited from fine reductions under the leniency notice for cooperating with the investigation and to reflect the extent to which the evidence they submitted helped to prove the existence of the cartels. Marutaka was found to be a facilitator in one of the cartels and was not granted a leniency reduction. All of the parties were granted a further standard 10 per cent settlement reduction.
This decision – the 25th cartel settlement since the introduction of the settlement procedure in 2008 – is part of a series of cartel investigations in the automotive parts sector and brings the total amount of Commission cartel fines in this sector to €1.6 billion.