Mercedes dealers demanded to be reassured that Mercedes-Benz USA Inc. has no plans to imitate DaimlerChrysler UK Ltd., which gave termination notices to 156 Mercedes dealers in December.
Paul Halata, CEO of the U.S. sales and marketing subsidiary, was quick to oblige. 'We are totally dedicated to working with our dealers,' Halata said after the Mercedes make meeting at the NADA convention.
Instead of terminating dealers, Mercedes expects to add about 10 locations, which may be offered to existing dealers, Halata said.
Mercedes has about 310 U.S. dealerships.
Dealers were satisfied with Halata's reassurance, said David Levy, chairman of the Mercedes dealer council. 'What works in England definitely doesn't work in the U.S.,' he said. Levy is president of David Michael Motor Car Corp. in Freehold, N.J.
The United Kingdom company wants to replace its dealers with a handful of company stores called Mercedes-Benz Experience Centers in big cities.
Other news from the meeting:
Dealers didn't seem concerned that Mercedes sales fell 7 percent in January to 12,690. The company said the month was its second-best January ever.
Mercedes said that S-class and CL coupe models were in short supply in January because some cars were held at port vehicle preparation centers to repair a faulty windshield-washer component.
S-class sales slipped 3 percent to 1,832 for January, a drop of only 56 units from the previous year.
Levy said Mercedes executives expect U.S. sales to improve in 2001 from a record 205,614 in 2000, even if the market as a whole slows down.