Rush Truck Centers claims parts makers' conspired to fix prices

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Rush Truck Centers’ lawsuit against several parts manufacturers alleging a conspiracy to rig alternator and starter prices for trucks has reached a new level. The truck dealership franchise wants a federal judge to deny a motion to dismiss based on the fact that the accused manufacturers have pleaded guilty to similar criminal charges.

In November 2015, Rush Truck Centers filed a civil complaint against Mitsubishi Electric, Hitachi Automotive, Mitsuba and Robert Bosch GmbH, all manufacturers of automotive alternators and starters. The suit alleges all four conspired to rig prices for truck alternators and starters, passing down the additional costs to the truck dealerships.

In January, the four defendants renewed a motion to dismiss, claiming statute of limitations and that past criminal charges in a similar case are irrelevant. Those charges? Antitrust charges stemming from fixing prices on alternators and starters.

In 2013 and 2015, the four parts manufacturers were all charged with antitrust violations for price fixing certain parts, including alternators and starters, according to federal court records. All four pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay massive fines ranging from $57.8 million to nearly $200 million.

However, the defendants are claiming that those cases do not apply to Rush Truck Centers’ case since those dealt with passenger vehicles, not heavy-duty trucks. Rush Truck Centers argues that those guilty pleas prove plausibility with its claim, and therefore the case should proceed.

Rush Truck Centers alleges that the manufacturers “engaged in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize, and maintain the price of alternators and starters” from June 1, 2000, to the present. Mitsubishi Electric’s customers included Peterbilt, Kenworth, Mack Trucks, Volvo Trucks, Freightliner, International Trucks and Prevost.

The lawsuit also says the conspiracy claims are plausible since the alternator and starter market is “highly concentrated and has high barriers to entry.” Rush Truck Centers claims that truck and equipment OEMs paid “supracompetitive prices,” which were passed down to truck and equipment dealers.

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