DaimlerChrysler will rely on an outside company to move service parts to its auto dealers and distributors in emerging markets in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
The multinational deal puts Caterpillar Logistics Services Germany GmbH & Co. in charge of warehousing repair parts and filling dealer orders for the Chrysler and Mercedes brands.
The arrangement shows that DaimlerChrysler's Stuttgart-based management is open to influence from Detroit. Chrysler Corp. used Caterpillar, a unit of the Peoria, Ill., transportation and machinery giant, to manage the automaker's service parts business in Europe and Africa before the 1998 merger with Daimler-Benz AG.
At the time of the merger, the Caterpillar arrangement - which is based in Puurs, Belgium, near Antwerp - appeared redundant, since Daimler had a European parts network. But now DaimlerChrysler has shifted more business to Caterpillar.
Under the new agreement, Caterpillar will open 12 wholesale outlets to carry Chrysler and Mercedes parts. Under the name Cat-Logistics, the logistics supplier will perform the job normally handled by an automaker's sales company in a foreign market.
In the United States, all of Mercedes' repair parts business flows through Mercedes-Benz USA Inc. of Montvale, N.J. Dealerships order parts from one of three U.S. Mercedes-Benz warehouses.
The automaker said the new arrangement will not replace existing parts networks in other markets. Mercedes' European activity will remain an in-house function. And Chrysler parts logistics in Western Europe will continue to be managed by Caterpillar out of Belgium.
Caterpillar's facility in Antwerp serves about 600 Chrysler dealers and distributors in the region, stocking 75,000 part numbers.
Last week's deal also shows the degree of outsourcing in the auto industry. In addition to outsourcing manufacturing activity, automakers increasingly are using outside companies to handle vehicle logistics, parts inventory management, supplier logistics, factory maintenance, packaging and other tasks.
DaimlerChrysler said the new Caterpillar network will be up and running in 15 months.