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March 7, 2003

GERMANY: Jeep dealers may help plug Mitsubishi network gaps – report

Mitsubishi will begin turning to Chrysler-Jeep dealers to fill a growing number of open points in Germany, according to Automotive News Europe. Germany is the role model for Mitsubishi’s new European dealer network strategy, Thomas Holtgräfe, CEO of Mitsubishi’s German subsidiary, told ANE.

By bcusack

Mitsubishi will begin turning to Chrysler -Jeep dealers to fill a growing number of open points in Germany, according to Automotive News Europe.

Germany is the role model for Mitsubishi ’s new European dealer network strategy, Thomas Holtgräfe, CEO of Mitsubishi ’s German subsidiary, told ANE .

“Our strategy is to try and fill open points with existing Mitsubishi partners,” Holtgräfe said. “But if that’s not possible, then our priority will be to have a Chrysler -Jeep partner add Mitsubishi to his dealership.”

Currently, 600 Mitsubishi partners run 800 dealer and service outlets in Germany. In the past year, Mitsubishi lost 60 partners. This number is likely to increase this year when new EU block exemption rules take effect in October.

But Holtgräfe doesn’t want to shrink the network, ANE said. To fill open points as quickly as possible he will turn to Chrysler -Jeep if no Mitsubishi partner is available.

“We are at the forefront of this strategy, which will be applied all across Europe,” Holtgräfe said. “It makes a lot of sense, because with Chrysler -Jeep we will soon share many parts and platforms.”

Four DaimlerChrysler multibrand outlets already exist in Germany. Two have Mitsubishi and Chrysler -Jeep, while two others also have Mercedes-Benz and Smart , but in a separate building.

Holtgräfe declined to tell ANE how many more multi-brand dealerships would likely be established this year.

Unlike most other automakers, Mitsubishi has not terminated dealer contracts because of the new block-exemption. Instead, the importer wants to renew the contracts and adapt them to new rules in consultation with the dealers.

But Holtgräfe says it is unrealistic to believe that all dealers will continue.

“If we can’t find a Mitsubishi dealer our priority would be Chrysler -Jeep, not Mercedes-Benz partners,” said Holtgräfe, previously Germany sales director for Mercedes-Benz . “This is more sensible for compatibility reasons on the technical side as well as for dealer mentality.”

According to Automotive News Europe, some Chrysler -Jeep dealers have been informed about Holtgräfe’s plans via the German Daimler-Chrysler sales organisation in Berlin.

“We heard that it would be much appreciated if we’d add Mitsubishi ,” said one Chrysler -Jeep dealer. The Mitsubishi dealer in a neighbouring village doesn’t want to continue.

Another Chrysler -Jeep dealer is convinced that adding Mitsubishi is only the beginning.

“In the medium term we will also have Hyundai under our roof — there is no doubt about that,” he said.

Chrysler officials from DaimlerChrysler ’s German sales organisation told ANE there is no mid-term strategy to integrate Hyundai dealers.

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