The call was made by Alan Pulham, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, at the Association of Car Fleet Operators' annual meeting.
Pulham said, it was crucial for the whole industry — and fleets in particular — to act together. He was reacting to criticism of the exemption by Mario Monti, European Competition Commissioner, at the recent conference in Brussels. Due for renewal in 2002, the block exemption allows manufacturers to control the new car market through a system of franchised dealers in geographical territories.
Monti had made it clear a decision on the future of the exemption would be heavily influenced by the Competition Commission's New Cars Inquiry report.
Pulham said: 'Monti blasted the manufacturers, criticising them for their failure to work within the legislation and he made it very clear that he was distressed at the number of car makers, such as Volkswagen, Opel, Renault and Peugeot, which had been, or were being investigated, by the EU for breaches.'
He said Monti had also made it clear that the Competition Commission's report 'did not make good reading as far as the renewal of block exemption was concerned', particularly as it painted manufacturers as 'determined to do their own thing'.
'We need to generate an atmosphere that makes law makers, our MPs and MEPs think carefully about the future of the exemption which keeps dealers in place so they are able to support fleets,' said Pulham.
He warned that watering down the block exemption to open up the new car market to other retailers, such as supermarkets and internet companies, would reduce the service to fleets.