PARIS - Renault and Nissan are ready to begin consolidating their dealer networks in Europe.
Renault will encourage some of its strongest dealers to acquire Nissan franchises, said Renault Chairman Louis Schweitzer. Talks are already underway between several dealer groups representing the two brands, according to Renault and Nissan sources.
They say a plan to bring together networks in France, Germany and the UK by 2002 will be announced by the companies before the end of the year.
The details are expected to be approved at the next meeting of the Global Alliance Committee, the 12-member group that oversees the Renault-Nissan alliance. The committee, which is co-chaired by Schweitzer and Nissan President Yoshikazu Hanawa, is scheduled to meet in late November in Paris. Renault acquired a controlling 37 percent interest in Nissan in March.
'In Europe, Renault's dealer base is stronger than Nissan's,' said Schweitzer in an interview with Automotive News Europe. 'So it would be natural in a majority of cases that Nissan dealerships would be owned by people also running Renault dealerships.'
Schweitzer said the alliance could accelerate Renault's efforts to rationalize its European network by reducing the number of dealers and giving them larger territories.
'Some of our strong dealers are making money and expanding,' he said. 'To offer them additional investment opportunities is positive.' But Schweitzer declined to discuss the consolidation plans in detail.
Vincent de Laurens, Nissan France vice president in charge of the dealer network, met with dealers on October 27 to inform them about the consolidation strategy and schedule. He declined to give details, but said that several sets of talks between Renault and Nissan dealer groups have started recently.
De Laurens said that Daumont, a Renault dealer group in Paris, is negotiating to acquire Nissan dealerships. Last year Daumont sold 6,400 Renaults.
Zodo, a Renault dealer group in Lille in northern France, acquired two Nissan dealers in Lille earlier this year and is a candidate to buy more, he said. Zodo sold 11,500 cars last year, mostly Renaults.
'We hope that the Nissan network will be preserved,' said Jacques Hess, who owns four Nissan dealerships in eastern France. 'But everything is possible.'
Sources say the consolidation plan could differ substantially outside France, where Renault's market share is nearly 30 percent.
Renault has 68 factory-owned dealers, 376 independent dealers and 6,300 sub-dealers in France. Nissan, with a 1.4 percent market share, has 188 independent dealers and 100 sub-dealers in the country.
The head of a large French dealer group said, 'Outside France, even outside western Europe, it is interesting to combine Renault and Nissan ranges in order to offer SUVs, pickups, and so on.'