“We have a good relationship with PSA and we want to continue that" - NSK

“We have a good relationship with PSA and we want to continue that" - NSK

NSK says it wants to continue its relationship with PSA Groupe, despite the French automaker pursuing a civil claim related to bearings cartel activity in tandem with several other suppliers.

PSA has launched a claim for US$577m against bearings manufacturers, including NSK, SKF, NTN, Schaeffler and JTEKT, following what the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) confirms as anti-competitive practices in car, truck and automotive component manufacturers.

NSK has already been fined EUR62.4m by the European Commission (EC) for its part in what Brussels refers to as "price coordination," although this amount was the result of a lessor penalty for the Japanese supplier as it was one of the first to apply for leniency.

Despite PSA launching its action – NSK says the French automaker alleges purchases from it are around 10% of the total from eight bearings manufacturers – the Tokyo company insists it wants to work with Paris in the future.

"We have a good relationship with PSA and we want to continue that," an NSK spokesman told just-auto. "We supply them with lots of different automotive bearings.

"I think we will continue a good relationship with PSA. This happened in the past. NSK [has] expressed [its] regret for the concern this matter has caused our customers and stakeholders and we wish to go on."

NSK raised the possibility the matter could be settled out of Court, although it added the caveat it would be examining data.

PSA declined to comment on any eventual out of Court settlement, but the automaker elaborated to just-auto from Paris a little of why it had decided to use the Competition Appeal Tribunal for its case.

"It is possible to sue in different jurisdictions depending on various factors," said a PSA spokesman. "England is a common forum for such claims."

In a 2014 judgement, the EC noted companies in a cartel coordinated the passing-on of steel price increases to their automotive customers, colluded on Requests for Quotations and for Annual Price Reductions from customers, as well as exchanged commercially sensitive information.

The decision was part of an assessment of suspected cartels in car parts, with the Commission investigating more products, such as airbags, safety belts, steering wheels, air conditioning and engine cooling products, as well as lighting systems.

"It is true [to] say there [are an] awful lot of anti-competitive issues related to auto parts," noted the NSK spokesman. "

The size of the EU market for automotive bearings was estimated in 2014 to be at least EUR2bn per year.