It’s been several months since we surveyed top automotive executives and insiders on the major legal issues facing the industry for our 2023 Automotive Trends Report.
As the automotive world continues to evolve and navigate a shifting legal landscape, we look at some of the major themes driving it forward… and the ones that might be in the rearview mirror.
Today, Howard Iwrey and Cody Rockey delve into the key Antitrust trends in the automotive landscape.
The DOJ and the FTC have continued ramping up their enforcement efforts, investigating and challenging transactions across deal values. Our 2023 Automotive Trends Report found “federal enforcement” to be the top antitrust concern in the auto space—an insight underscored by the administration’s aggressive pursuit of their agenda in the months since. Looking ahead, we expect to see more merger enforcement to focus on traditional and new theories like vertical impact and impact on labor and buy-side markets. The FTC has also proposed extensive changes to the Hart-Scott-Rodino premerger notification form that require much more detailed information than is currently required, including information about the parties’ employees, transaction rationale, market conditions, vertical relationships, and prior acquisition details. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for increased oversight of “Big Tech’s expansion into the automotive industry” might fuel future investigations into partnerships between Big Tech and automotive involving infotainment, autonomous and semi-autonomous driving systems, AI, and data privacy.
Potentially problematic deal filings
Only 19% of respondents to our 2023 survey viewed an “aggressive review process” as a primary antitrust concern for the auto industry. Expect that number to climb in the coming months as merger reviews come under increased scrutiny. But after Hart-Scott-Rodino premerger filings soared in the most recently reported fiscal year, the percentage of deals subject to merger investigations has actually taken a dive. How can that be? Some suggest this decline is a combination of two factors: the high volume of filings for the latest fiscal year for which statistics are available, and a decrease in parties pursuing transactions that may be perceived as problematic.