AMSTERDAM - Mitsubishi Motors Europe wants to raise the average number of sales per dealer in its European network.
'We intend to restructure our network, adding a few here and dropping some there,' said Hans Tolenaar, executive vice president of Mitsubishi Motors Europe.
'We will still have 2,200 to 2,300 dealers, but each will sell 140 to 150 cars a year.
Mitsubishi currently has 2,200 dealers with average annual sales of about 126 units.
'We will target southern Europe, or markets (like the UK) that were affected by import restrictions and need developing.'
Mitsubishi is aiming for annual sales of 330,000 by 2000. It expects 279,000 sales this year.
Tolenaar does not believe much will change for Japanese carmakers when import quotas, imposed by some European governments in 1991, expire at the end of the year.
'We know that some French politicians might want to extend quotas beyond 2000,' he said. 'However, our French sources say they do not expect that to happen.'
Mitsubishi has suffered in the UK, since allocations were based on sales volumes before 1991.
Proposed European block exemption rules for 2001 will end dealer exclusivity. Carmakers can now control who sells their products and under what conditions.
But Tolenaar does not 'see many changes, because Europeans are not used to buying cars at superstores like Republic in the USA. Selective dealer networks will continue, but they will have to comply with certain legal standards which still have to be decided by the European parliament.'
Mitsubishi is currently taking over distribution in France from local importer Sonauto.
The handover will be complete in July 2000.
'We have five Mitsubishi-owned distributors in Europe now (France will make it six) and we do not want to own more,' Tolenaar said. 'But we will join forces for more professionalism.'