Mercedes-Benz dealers in Europe are beginning to show interest in obtaining Chrysler-Jeep franchises.
So far, out of 106 Mercedes-Benz dealers who are seeking a Chrysler-Jeep franchise in Europe, 10 have been granted a franchise, said Tom Stallkamp, the DaimlerChrysler management board member responsible for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Plymouth.
The majority of the 106 dealers are located in Germany, but there are some in France and Italy.
D/C did not solicit these dealers, and each dealer said they would build a separate Chrysler-Jeep store, Stallkamp said.
'The 10 just fell into place because we didn't have a point there,' Stallkamp said. He wants to grant a franchise to as many of them as possible.
Thomas Marinelli, president of Chrysler Europe in Brussels, is working on dealer territories and determining who will get a franchise.
The Chrysler and Jeep brands set a sales record during April in Europe, aided by the launch of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. There were 11,276 Chrysler and Jeep vehicles sold in Europe in April, up 16 percent from the same month a year ago.
But year-to-date sales of 34,391 in Europe were down 3 percent compared to the same period a year ago.
'That's disappointing, but unrelated to the merger,' Stallkamp said. The inventory of 1998 Grand Cherokees made in Graz, Austria, was depleted before the launch of the redesigned 1999 model, he said.
The redesigned Grand Cherokee is now in full production in Graz, and the redesigned 2000 Chrysler Neon will be introduced in Europe this summer.
'I think you'll see sales coming back during the second half of the year,' Stallkamp said.