February 24, 2010 Bloomberg

Auto Suppliers Under U.S. Antitrust Investigation

The U.S. Justice Department said itfs investigating possible anticompetitive conduct among automotive electronic component suppliers, a day after the FBI raided three companies.

The department is coordinating its probe with the European Commission and other overseas antitrust authorities, Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said in an e-mail today.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation yesterday conducted searches of three auto-parts makers: Yazaki North America Inc. in Canton; Denso International America Inc. in Southfield; and Tokai Rika Co. in Plymouth, said Sandra Berchtold, an FBI spokeswoman in Detroit. Yazaki said in a statement that its facilities in Lexington, Kentucky, and Columbus, Ohio, also were gvisitedh by government officials.

The three companies supply automakers including Toyota Motor Corp., which is facing U.S. scrutiny over recalls of defective vehicles. The antitrust investigation is unrelated to the defects, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. The person wasnft authorized to comment publicly.

The department is investigating gthe possibility of anticompetitive cartel conducth among suppliers, Talamona said.

Denso Cooperates

Denso is cooperating with the investigation, said Bridgette Gollinger, a spokeswoman for the companyfs Michigan subsidiary. Denso is a unit of Denso Corp., an auto-parts maker based in Kariya, Japan.

Joe Rine, a spokesman for the U.S. unit of Tokai Rika, which is based in Japanfs Aichi prefecture, said his company also is cooperating. The FBI grequested additional information that we need to supply in the future, which we will do and meet their time line,h he said.

Yazaki North America, a unit of Tokyo-based Yazaki Corp., is cooperating with the investigation and hasnft been informed of the details of the probe, according to a statement from company spokeswoman Shefali Cromer.

Toyota, based in Toyota City, Japan, is the largest shareholder in Denso and Tokai Rika. Toyota said in a statement that it hasnft been contacted by authorities, though it is aware suppliers have been.