Opel dealers' association plans complaints about new contracts

Mainz. The Opel dealers' association will take legal steps against the German carmaker's new block exemption contracts.

"We have not reached an agreement" on the new dealer contracts, said Hans-Jochim Flohr, spokesman for the Opel dealers' association VDOH.

At a meeting in Mainz attended by 500 out of the 600 dealer association members, Flohr said that the association will have the Opel contracts legally examined.

Flohr said the plan is to take Opel to court in Germany or to initiate arbitration proceedings. The VDOH also will make a complaint to the EU commission regarding the disputed passages in the contracts that do not appear to comply with EU regulations.

One of the major points being criticized is that Opel wants the right to change the contracts. For example, the manufacturer would be able to change at any time such crucial points as standards or margins.

Another area of dispute is the so-called "location potential" that Opel determines by using key data.

"If an Opel dealer at a certain location sells 300 units but Opel determines the potential sales volume as being 700 vehicles, then that is not acceptable for the dealer concerned," said Flohr.

Opel also is trying to dictate how many and what type of other vehicle marques should be sold by a multi-brand dealer. As a result, Flohr said, multi-brand sales are becoming nearly impossible due to a likely loss of margins.

According to the new block exemption, manufacturers can only demand that 30 percent of dealers' business is done with the main brand.

Another focus point for the VDOH is the cooperation between recognized Opel agents and Opel dealers.

"We don't believe that there is a valid definition of who is a recognized agent," said Flohr.

According to the VDOH, the reduction of margins by up to 3 percent from October 1, 2005, also is still being discussed.

Flohr said that up until now it was possible to compensate for the margin losses with "transition period payments. But now, from October 2005, there will be a sudden margin loss," he predicted.

In Opel's opinion, the contracts are final. But the VDOH has a different view. Honorary President Theo Thuellen said: "Now we will really get going."