General Motors on Monday announced that Kroymans Corporation BV has been selected to develop and manage a European dealership network  - including the United Kingdom - that will sell and service Cadillac and Chevrolet Corvette vehicles, writes just-auto.com deputy editor Graeme Roberts. Kroymans Corporation is based in Hilversum, the Netherlands, and is already a European distributor of several luxury nameplates, including Aston-Martin, Ferrari, Jaguar and GM's own Saab.

The multi-year agreement, which was recently signed by Cadillac general manager, Mark LaNeve, Kroymans Corporation CEO Ton van Soest, and GM Overseas Distribution Corporation president John Costin, gives Kroymans exclusive European rights to distribute Cadillac and Corvette vehicles from October 1, 2003. GM's agreement with the current Cadillac and Corvette dealers throughout Europe expires the previous day, September 30.

Kroymans Corporation will immediately begin development of distinctive sales and service networks that will be open on October 1 this year. So-called 'Cadillac Experience Centres' for sales and service will be established in major markets and smaller markets will be identified for traditional distributor dealerships.

Kroymans Corporation plans to develop 25 Cadillac experience centres. These will serve as showcase dealerships with a full line of Cadillac and Corvette vehicles, sales and service and will coordinate the activities of dealerships in smaller surrounding markets.

Chevrolet Corvette

To some extent this 'hub and satellite' dealership structure reflects the revamped Mercedes-Benz dealership network recently created in the United Kingdom to meet new European Union block exemption rules.

In a statement, GM said Kroymans is willing to invest in Cadillac experience centres in the Benelux countries and Germany and possibly in both Switzerland and Austria. Kroymans has also started negotiating with other automotive partners to set up and operate centres in other European countries.

A spokesman for GM's British arm Vauxhall,  David Crundwell, said the deal definitely included the UK (Europe's only major right-hand drive market) and it would be up to Kroymans to decide how and which US GM models to market and distribute in the 2.5 million cars a year market, and their specification.

Crundwell confirmed that the only GM North American-built model currently available ex-factory with right-hand drive is the Cadillac Seville (the Chevrolet Blazer SUV was briefly offered with RHD in the UK several years ago but, like the Seville, did not sell well) and said that, again, it was up to Kroymans to negotiate the models and specifications for sale in the UK.

Crundwell would not speculate on whether or not GM North America had any new RHD models in the development pipeline which could be offered to Kroymans for sale in the UK.

Cadillac CTS-V

Kroymans Corporation, in cooperation with GM, will also develop its own European dealer standards and assess dealer candidates. Current GM dealers will be offered an opportunity to secure a Cadillac and Corvette franchise provided they agree to meet a set of standards and other obligations.

Cadillac is launching four new vehicles for sale in Europe, including the Cadillac CTS sedan (already available in left-hand-drive form in continental Europe), the SRX crossover, the XLR roadster, and "a future-generation flagship sedan". The next-generation Escalade will also be sold in Europe.

GM claims the Corvette, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has been increasingly successful in Europe and will be launching its next-generation model there during 2004.

However, as it makes plans with its new Dutch distribution partner for Europe, the US car giant will surely bear in mind that the now-dropped Cadillac Seville, for which GM Europe hed high hopes at launch in the late 1990s, together with the Blazer, was a flop in continental Europe (a few were also sold through certain Vauxhall dealers in the UK and are now available at bargain prices second-hand) while the Camaro was panned by the British motoring press due to its soft handling, poor build quality and unsuitable, left-hand drive-only specification.

Cadillac SRX

Monday's announcement nonetheless marks a significant change for GM USA's approach in trying, once again, to successfully sell American cars in Europe.

The move to an independent distributor, rather than selling the cars through existing General Motors Europe import and dealer operations, transfers most of the financial risk and responsibility for marketing and dealer network standards to the newly-appointed independent distributor.

That should leave GM in a splendid position to reap profits, in return for relatively little direct effort or cost on its part, should the new distributor successfully boost unit volume on this side of the Atlantic to the levels - or beyond - that GM Europe first dreamed of when they relaunched Cadillac and Chevrolet around five years ago.