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 Chrysler-Jeep franchises in Europe, 10 have been granted them, said Tom Stallkamp, the DaimlerChrysler management board member responsible for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Plymouth. Most of the 106 dealers are in Germany.
'The 10 just fell into place because we didn't have a point there,' Stallkamp said.
He said he wants to grant franchises to as many of the 106 dealers as possible.
There are 3,000 Mercedes-Benz dealers in the European Union. Chrysler and Jeep vehicles now are sold by 657 dealers in Europe, the company said.
Thomas Marinelli, president of Chrysler Europe in Brussels, is working on dealer territories and determining who will get a franchise.
'Clearly, a Mercedes dealer in Europe is a pretty good businessman, probably better, frankly, than the distributors that we had started with in Europe who were basically import-oriented and small guys,' Stallkamp said.
DaimlerChrysler in April launched its redesigned 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Europe. The company sold a record 11,276 Chrysler and Jeep vehicles in Europe in April, up 16 percent from the same month a year ago. The automaker sells the Chrysler Neon, Chrysler 300M large sedan, Chrysler Voyager minivan and the three Jeep models in Europe.
But year-to-date sales of 34,391 in Europe were down 3 percent compared with the year-ago period.
The redesigned Grand Cherokee now is in full production in Graz, Austria, and the redesigned 2000 Chrysler Neon will be introduced in Europe this summer.
'I think you'll see sales coming back the second half of the year,' Stallkamp said. 'The economy in Europe is not stellar. I don't know if the war (in Kosovo) is hurting anything, but Germany in particular is kind of flat and U.K. went through a tough first quarter.'