Korea’s antitrust watchdog investigates Audi, Mercedes-Benz over diesel ads

By Shin Ji-hye
  • Published : Jul 11, 2018 - 14:46
  • Updated : Jul 11, 2018 - 14:46

The nation’s antitrust watchdog launched an on-site investigation Wednesday into two local units of German automakers, Audi Korea and Mercedes-Benz Korea, in relation to their alleged manipulation of emissions-related software.

According to an industry source, the Fair Trade Commission sent its investigators to the local headquarters of the two firms, with the aim of looking into whether Audi and Mercedes-Benz’s Euro-6 diesel models violated the advertising act of the nation’s fair trade law. 

The investigation focuses on whether advertisements of Audi and Mercedes-Benz’s diesel cars, which say they “satisfy the Euro 6 standard,” are in violation of local laws. Euro 6 is the standard of the European Union aiming to reduce harmful pollutants from vehicle exhausts.

If the FTC finds any violation of the advertising act, the authorities can impose a penalty of up to 2 percent of related sales.

In 2016, Audi Volkswagen Korea was imposed with 37.3 billion won ($33.2 million) in penalties by the FTC over similar charges of falsified advertising. The FTC had imposed the penalties and reported five executives of Audi Volkswagen Korea.

The FTC’s latest investigation came after the German Transport Ministry began an investigation into diesel-engine vehicles early this year. The German ministry last month ordered the recall of tens of thousands of cars produced by Audi and Mercedes-Benz after deeming that they used software designed to conceal levels of harmful emissions. The CEO of Audi was also placed under arrest.

The move led Korea’s Ministry of Environment to begin looking into Euro-6 diesel models, including Audi’s A6 50 TDI quattro and Benz’s C200d and GLC220d. So far, Audi’s three diesel models under investigation sold around 6,600 units, and Benz’s three models sold around 28,000 units in Korea.

Mercedes-Benz Korea and Audi Korea said they would “cooperate” with the investigation, while the FTC declined to comment, saying, “We do not make any comments on an individual case.”

By Shin Ji-hye (