The European Commission has delayed its ruling on the future of block exemption for several weeks.
A crucial Commission draft proposal was expected later this month or in early December, but may not come until early 2002, according to a spokesman for Competition Commissioner Mario Monti.
The block exemption, which is set to expire on September 30, 2002, protects the automakers' exclusive distribution system in Europe.
Europe's carmakers have urged the Commission to preserve the key elements of the block exemption.
Industry sources said the delay resulted from the failure of consultant firm Arthur Andersen to meet its report deadline.
Andersen was hired by the Commission to study different post-block exemption scenarios. It was asked to assess the impact of scrapping, maintaining or amending the distribution system.
The Andersen report has now been delivered to the Commission and will be made public sometime in December, the spokesman said.
The report will be posted on the Commission's Website: www.european.eu.int/comm/competition
Once the draft proposal is issued, EU states and industry parties will be able to comment. The comments will be taken into account when the final proposal is drafted, in 2002.
The European Parliament will also participate in the debate .
It is a tight schedule. Some industry executives think it will be difficult to complete the process before the current rule expires.