Volkswagen AG plans to rebuild its dealer network and the key element of the strategy is the purchase of Porsche Holding, the giant Salzburg-based vehicle distribution company controlled by the Piech and Porsche families.
VW plans to acquire the Austrian company, Europe's largest dealer group, for about 3 billion euros ($4.3 billion) from the Piechs and Porsches.
The acquisition would be completed as the merger of VW and the Porsche sports car business moves ahead.
The sports car firm has long been run separately from the family's distribution business in Austria.
The consolidation is due to be completed by 2011. The goal is to bundle VW's own sales operations with the retail activities of Porsche Holding Salzburg.
"Our Porsche colleagues have proved their high retail competency again and again," said VW Chief Financial Officer Hans Dieter Poetsch.
Along with the targeted training of Porsche Holding Salzburg's sales team, its dealer network development is considered an industry benchmark. That's why VW CEO Martin Winterkorn wants to quickly introduce Porsche training processes and sales tactics at VW.
Putting pressure on rivals
With a new strategy at company-owned sales centers for the VW, Audi and Porsche brands, the group could put greater pressure on premium automakers Daimler AG and BMW AG.
"We want to strictly avoid the mistakes of our competitors, who often burn through a great deal of money at their sales branches," a senior VW executive said.
It would be a "plausible scenario" to leave Porsche Holding Salzburg's employees "entirely in Austria and for VW's headquarters in Wolfsburg to interfere as little as possible in processes that are running well."
Moving the VW Retail business to Salzburg is also possible, the source added. This would be yet another step on the path to the "integrated automotive company" that VW and Porsche want to build "under Volkswagen's leadership."
The automaker uses VW Retail to manage its company-owned dealerships, such as Raffay in Hamburg.
VW has recently acquired the Berlin Zentrum dealership from the Weller Group.
At the insistence of the automaker, the financially battered, Luebeck-based Kittner Group, along with its strategically important locations in northern Germany, has now come under a trustee's administration. VW will probably acquire these operations soon, too.
In the mid-term, a revamping of VW's leadership is also expected in the course of the VW-Porsche merger.
VW brand chief Christian Klingler and China boss Winfried Vahland are being tipped as favorites for the newly created position of corporate sales and marketing chief. Kurt Loidl, the top executive at Porsche Holding Salzburg, has declined the appointment.