The German auto industry started conspiring on diesel emissions in the 1990s

Originally published at:


Unlike the US and the UK, Germans have tended to see cartels as a good thing provided they are German cartels. (Their rules on company accounts disclosures have also been very opaque making it easy for Mittelstand companies to hide quite a lot of corporate activity.) So price fixing of what is basically concentrated urine isn’t that surprising.
And it is working. While VAG has been heavily fined in the US, they are getting away with it completely in the UK and elsewhere in the EU.


I didn’t understand the “AdBlue tanks too small” point. What benefit does that convey to the conspiracy?

I need to read the article since the bit included doesn’t make a lot of sense… There are two separate scandals here– the one where VW gamed the testing procedure to hide excess emissions, and the adblue price fixing. The whole problem with the VW engines that don’t pass the emissions tests is that they don’t have adblue tanks at all– VW claimed they had perfected their 4 cylinder engines so they wouldn’t need it, but this wasn’t true as it turns out. Also, I’m pretty sure adblue was a proprietry technology that daimler was licensing to the other companies… again, I’ll read the article now– all may be revealed.

EDIT– just read it. Still unclear how the two ‘scandals’ are related… My only guess is that VW didn’t want to license the adblue for so many cars, so they created the testing scam to use engines without the additive… Their larger and newer models all have adblue (though they are not sold in US any longer)

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The German auto industry started conspiring on diesel emissions in the 1990s

My asthma thanks them.

[note sarcasm]


I think they’re suggesting that they agreed to keep the tanks smaller than they could be since you have to refill the adblue tank every year or two, and since adblue is a branded tech, I guess you have to buy it from daimler or whoever owns it. It’s not that expensive though, so seems a bit silly.

Hardly surprising since the linked article is a rehash of the summary of the article in the Spiegel which is itself intended to get the reader to buy the Spiegel magazine or go behind the paywall.

In other words, neither article is really going to tell us anything we’d like to know - just enough to get us to think there is something we’d like to find out.

As best I can tell, the story is simply that VW and Daimler went to the regulator to fess up to having talks about all sorts of things including fixing emissions. The emissions is of course what gets the coverage because it was big news. I suspect the article is about rather more than that.

The link being touted between AdBlue and the emissions test fixing is that the AdBlue tanks were made artificially too small (allegedly the proper size tanks would be too expensive) and were therefore not effective enough.

So rather than make them bigger, the car manufacturers decided they had to game the emissions tests.

And presumably once you’re doing that you might as well get rid of the tanks completely. If you’re going to cheat, go full in. :wink:

BTW, I suspect the expense referred to is not the cost of the AdBlue but whatever the cost is of manufacturing and finding space for the larger tank within the confines of whatever vehicle you’re trying to fit it to - and possibly whatever effect it might have on the performance of the vehicle.


I’ve heard this as well… Any tank for the adblue takes away from fuel tank space, limiting the range of the vehicle. Interesting that the smaller tanks might be considered ineffective– like you say, maybe the cars are skimping on the additive and then making up the difference with test scamming? I haven’t been following the story recently, but I thought that the culprits of the test-fixing were the engines without the additive, but maybe the net has widened to include those with the adblue. Thanks for your info!

The only thing I can think of is they had an Adblue price-gouging scheme to go along with it. And, in buying smaller quantities, they can always be charging more per gallon. Eg:

Consumer Reports was charged a whopping $317 by a local dealer to put 7.5 gallons of AdBlue in its Mercedes-Benz GL320 test car, at $32/gallon for the fluid. /LINK/

Or, perhaps they wanted to make sure no one car maker innovated “too much”?

But then again, how is 7.5 gallons “too small” (if that size, in fact, was the colluded-upon size)? Apparently at that size, you can go 10000 miles or so, which coincides with your servicing the car in general.


Ha! Our 2005 Jetta tdi doesn’t use AdBlue, our city doesn’t require emissions tests, and diesel costs less than gas. Burn, baby, burn!

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