A federal court in New Hampshire has blocked an effort by DaimlerChrysler Vans LLC to move a Freightliner dealer's complaint out of the state's department of motor vehicles' control and into binding arbitration.
The decision sets the stage for a challenge to DaimlerChrysler Van's plan to hand its Sprinter commercial van from the commercial truck side of its business to the passenger-vehicle side.
U.S. District Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled that Freightliner of New Hampshire Inc., a franchised truck retailer with stores in Londonderry and Lebanon, N.H., was protected by federal law "from having to abide by the arbitration clauses in its dealer contracts."
DaimlerChrysler Vans could appeal the decision. The company did not return calls seeking comment.
Jay Alosa, owner of the franchise, has challenged DaimlerChrysler Vans' plan to take the commercial Sprinter van away from Freightliner dealers in 2006 and sell it exclusively through Dodge dealerships nationwide.
The Sprinter long has been a big seller in Europe but was not available in the U.S. market until 2002.
DaimlerChrysler Vans originally signed 72 Freightliner dealers, including Alosa, to sell the van here, along with about 200 Dodge dealers. But in 2002 the automaker changed its plan, choosing to sell the trucks through the 3,000-dealer Dodge franchise.
Alosa filed a protest last year with the New Hampshire Motor Vehicle Industry Board. He contended that because his Sprinter franchise agreement covers all of New Hampshire, no Dodge dealers should be allowed to sell the van there.