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Thursday, 27 February 2014 00:22

Dealer Group Sues Hitachi, Panasonic, and Mitsubishi in Part Price-Fixing Dispute

A group, including dozens of car dealerships, hit Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd., Panasonic Corp., Mitsuba Corp., and others with separate putative class actions in Michigan federal court on February 7, 2014, alleging a scheme to fix prices for a number of auto parts in a conspiracy that prompted criminal charges.

The suits come a month after Nippon Seiki Co., Ltd. announced that it would pay US$4.56 million to settle with consumers in a related auto parts price-fixing multi-district litigation. In the new suits, Martens Cars of Washington, Inc., Landers Auto Group No. 1, Inc., and more than 30 other car dealership plaintiffs seek damages and injunctive relief for conspiracies to fix prices for air flow meters, electronic throttle bodies, steering angle sensors, high-intensity discharge ballasts, automatic transmission fluid warmers, electronic-powered steering assemblies, and power window motors.

“The U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division is currently conducting a broad criminal investigation into illegal price-fixing and bid-rigging in the automotive parts industry,” the complaints say. “The ongoing cartel investigation of price-fixing and bid-rigging in the automotive parts industry has yielded US$1.8 billion in criminal fines, already surpassing the total amount in criminal fines obtained by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division for all of last fiscal year.”

In each suit, the plaintiffs say the Department of Justice announced that the defendant company has agreed to plead guilty for its role in the conspiracy to fix prices of car parts. The dealers who bought the parts at inflated costs deserve justice, according to the slew of complaints.

Those named as defendants in the suits filed Friday, February 7, 2014, include Hitachi, Panasonic, Mitsuba, T.Rad Co. Ltd., and JTEKT Corp. The broader MDL stems from the Department of Justice blockbuster investigation into a series of price-fixing conspiracies in the auto parts industry that has already yielded more than US$1.6 billion in fines.

In September 2013, nine Japanese-based auto parts makers, including Hitachi, T.Rad, Mitsubishi Electric Corp., and others, agreed to pay US$740 million in fines as a result of their roles in international price-fixing conspiracies that increased the cost of cars sold in the United States.

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