The fight over proposed new-car distribution regulations has shifted to the European Parliament.
The Parliament is studying 125 proposed amendments to the drastic changes recommended this spring by Competition Commissioner Mario Monti.
Monti's proposals are due to come into force October 1, after being approved by the European Commission in July. The European Parliament only has a consultative role in this matter.
But ACEA, the European automakers' association, said it has made progress in the battle against the new rules.
The Parliament's legal affairs committee voted in automakers' favor on one issue, ACEA said.
The committee opposed granting dealers the right to open sales outlets anywhere in the EU without carmakers' consent. Removing the so-called 'location clause' is currently part of the Commission's proposals.
The committee asked Monti to extend the current location clause until at least 2005, ACEA executive Marc Greven said. Automakers oppose giving dealers the right to open outlets in other countries because dealers could take advantage of wholesale car-price differentials between various EU countries.
Analysts say eliminating the location clause would lead to the emergence of large, powerful dealership groups that could demand lower prices from carmakers than existing small, scattered dealerships.
This week, Monti's package, together with any proposed amendments, will come before the Parliament's economics committee. The issue will come before the full Parliament in the second half of May.
Retaining the location clause is one of several changes ACEA demanded last week.
Automakers also want to keep the right to require multi-brand dealers to have separate showrooms.
Car manufacturers say eliminating that power, as advocated by the Commission, will 'reduce inter-brand competition' as dealers 'will tend to promote those models attracting higher profit margins.'
ACEA says automakers should:
* Be able to limit the number of authorized repairs in a given country. The Commission plans to separate sales and aftersales service, allowing the emergence of large repair businesses with related economies of scale.
* Not be forced to explain in writing when terminating a dealer franchise.
* Be allowed to exclude medium and heavy commercial vehicles from the new rules. Instead, truck sales should fall under 1999 EU general competition rules.
Speaking before Parliament members, Monti criticized German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for attacking his plan to widen competition on car sales and repairs.
Schröder, from Lower Saxony where Volkswagen is based, has charged that Monti's plan would eliminate 100,000 industry jobs.
Said Monti: 'We are acting in the interest of European and German consumers and at the same time not against the industry.'