PRAGUE -- Mitsubishi is changing its distributor network in central Europe to try to stop a sales slide.
Mitsubishi removed the Austria-based Denzel Group as its distributor in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, replacing it in the Czech and Slovak markets with the Auto Palace Group.
Denzel will continue to represent Mitsubishi in Austria
"This is a specific situation in those markets that were run by Denzel," said Alex Thomas, a Mitsubishi spokesman. "The common factor, therefore, is not EU accession, but more that they were all managed out of Vienna."
In Hungary, Mitsubishi appointed the Emil Frey group of Switzerland.
The Auto Palace Group is part of the Autobinck network, based in the Netherlands, which is where Mitsubishi's European headquarters is located.
Owned by the Lauret family, Autobinck is the exclusive distributor for Mazda and Hyundai in the Netherlands, as well as Mazda in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Mitsubishi sales in four of the 10 new EU member states -- the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland -- were down 15.3 percent to 3,557 cars, a loss of 641 units. The drop was sharpest in the Czech Republic, where sales fell to 456 cars -- less than half of the 2003 level.
In Poland, Mitsubishi sales have defied the downward regional trends by climbing 13.9 percent through September to 2,071 units.
Mitsubishi distributes through its own subsidiary in Poland .
–- Wim Oude Weernink contributed