DaimlerChrysler, Fiat, General Motors and Toyota must provide more information about their models to independent car repair businesses to encourage competition, the European Commission ruled Friday.
The decision by the European Union’s top antitrust regulator confirms commitments given by the four carmakers.
In return, the Commission will not issue a formal ruling finding that they broke EU competition rules. The groups also escape a potentially damaging antitrust fine.
Brussels has long been concerned about the state of competition in the car repair market. The regulator believes that motor groups such as DaimlerChrysler and Toyota have tried to bolster the position of their own authorised outlets by withholding crucial information about their models from independent garages.
The regulator has been alarmed by the drop in market share held by independent repair shops, with authorised garages now holding up to 96 per cent in some markets, especially for newer cars.
Brussels blames the recent fall in the number of independent repair shops in part on their lack of access to information about the latest car models and how to repair them.
Neelie Kroes, the EU competition commissioner, said Friday: “Consumers benefit from competition between repairers through lower labour charges and cheaper spare parts. These decisions provide a concrete and timely solution to the problems faced by independent repairers, who might lose their ability to compete without access to the relevant technical information.”
The Commission said independent garages were often more than 50 per cent cheaper that authorised repair shops.
In Germany, the price difference was 16 per cent on average, while in Britain some typical repair jobs for luxury cars could cost more than twice as much if drivers went to authorised repair shops.
Another concern cited by the Commission was safety: “If repairs were carried out without the right technical information, this could lead to vehicles being driven in an unsafe condition, and add to air pollution and wasted fuel.”
Toyota, the Japanese car group, said: “Toyota welcomes the additional guidance provided by the Commission during this investigation. It has helped clarify the scope of the car manufacturers’ obligations as regards the provision of technical information to independent repairers.”
Be alerted on Automobiles