PARIS - Porsche AG plans to take direct control of its sales distribution in France.
A joint venture will be formed later this year with Sonauto, its current distributor. Porsche will eventually assume management of the new company, Sonauto Porsche France.
A Sonauto spokesman said the change is part of the carmaker's strategy to directly control local sales operations in its main markets.
'It's already done in Italy, Spain, the UK, Japan and the USA,' he said.
Sonauto is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Porsche Holding, an Austrian company. Porsche Hold-ing's only connection with Porsche AG is that both are controlled by the Porsche and Piech families.
Porsche Holding's business ranges from real estate to importing Volkswagen group cars in Austria.
Sonauto imports Hyundai and Mitsubishi cars in France, and has been Porsche's importer since 1950. It was Chrysler's local importer until 1996.
Sonauto's sales fell from FF2.4 billion sales ($405 million) in 1996 to FF1.6 billion last year.
Fifteen of its 180 employees are dedicated to the Porsche brand. Porsche sold 619 cars in France last year and expects to sell 800 in 1998.