German carmakers could face antitrust fines of up to 20 billion U.S. dollars in the United States, the newspaper Bild reported on Thursday with reference to a first lawsuit being prepared against Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW, Audi and Porsche.
The estimate made by experts for the cost of anticipated civil lawsuits puts the cost of the recent "cartel" scandal equally high as that of the still ongoing "diesel gate" affair.
The combination of the two could place leading German carmakers under severe financial strain. A U.S. attorney, who already represents plaintiffs in the emissions cheating scandal, confirmed to Bild there would be further class action lawsuits.
A similar suit has also already been filed in Canada, with plaintiffs demanding 1.1 billion U.S. dollars in damages from carmakers.
U.S. authorities are currently assessing whether to instigate formal criminal proceedings against German automotive corporations.
In the civil lawsuit, filed at a New Jersey court, plaintiffs accuse vehicle producers of conspiracy over the course of two decades. As a result, customers had paid "unjustifiably high prices" for their cars.
Additionally, collusion is claimed to have influenced U.S. sales practices and made it more difficult for U.S. car manufacturers to enter the German market.
German carmakers have refused to comment on what several of their representatives described as "media speculation" since newsmagazine Spiegel first reported the allegations over the weekend.
BMW was the first firm to respond publicly to the claims, categorically ruling out the existence of an agreement between producers to purposefully install "AdBlue" tanks to purify diesel emissions which were too small to meet relevant regulations as a cost saving measure.
Following reports that Daimler had made a voluntary self-declaration of illicit collusion to European competition authorities in order to evade prosecution, BMW froze long-standing official cooperation between the two firms.
A spokesperson for Daimler told Xinhua that there was "nothing more to say" with regards to BMW's cancellation of talks about future joint ventures.