Honda Motor Europe says its 1,800-strong dealer network will be able to deal with competition from independents, even in the aftersales market, when the new block exemption rules come into effect in October.
Ken Keir, senior vice president of Honda Motor Europe and managing director of Honda UK, says the company's experience with selling motorbikes and power equipment, both of which operate outside a franchise system, will prove invaluable.
"We also have a car product that is recognized as being very reliable and a dealer network that has a high level of customer retention," says Keir.
"Europe is Honda's toughest challenge but we believe it offers us a genuine opportunity for growth, building on the success of our global operations."
Honda has already issued new franchise agreements to its dealers.
"It has been done smoothly," says Keir. "We have confidence in the network across Europe, so why should we go through the emotional trauma of terminating people and then reissuing contracts?"
Honda has been holding a series of seminars with its European dealers "to explain what block exemption means for them and what it means for us," says Keir. "There are obviously benefits and negatives under the new rules but we are starting from a simple base and drawing on our experience with motorcycles and power equipment."
The one exception has been Germany, where Honda's dealer network has been halved.
"We did have to make some structural changes in Germany, where we had around 550 small dealerships," says Keir. "We terminated the whole network and we now have 250 good, strong outlets."
He adds: "We can expect to operate successfully in an unfranchised environment as long as we continue to meet or exceed the expectations of our customers then our dealers. We have been living in a retail environment for long enough, so there should be no shocks."