Fleet News

Conference questions car distribution proposals

SENIOR manufacturer executives used a European conference to speak out against the European Commission proposed changes to car distribution block exemption.

The Automotive News Europe Congress held in Sweden invited a number of representatives from across the industry to sit on a panel to discuss the proposed changes.

Panellist Alex Nourry, head of the European Competition and Regulation group of the Clifford Chance law firm in London, described the block exemption proposal as 'a rather opaque and cumbersome document – not the most user-friendly document the Commission has come up with'.

Nourry added that manufacturers should be concerned about their 'ability to organise their networks' in Europe 'as opposed to having big retailers cherry picking in certain areas'.

The vice-president of DaimlerChrysler's development sales organisation, Manfred Schneider, said the idea of multiple brands being sold on the same showroom floor 'would be a horrible picture for us'.

He added that Mercedes-Benz has taken more control of its dealer network by setting up large city centre-based sites.

Hans Gerhard Seeba, head of sales channel strategy for Volkswagen group said the 'consumer is already in the driving seat'. He also praised German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder for his efforts to force the EC to rethink its proposals.

In a separate speech, Saab chief executive officer Peter Augustsson said the proposals would 'threaten safety and environmental standards, among other things'.

He added: 'Employment in the auto industry will be reduced and customers will be inconvenienced.'

Last month the European Automobiles Manufacturers' Association called on the Commission to take a fresh look at tax differentials between countries, which it blames for the wide variation in prices between different EU countries.

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