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'Fleets will establish own service/repair operations'

Changes to Block Exemption could see leading fleets become car sales organisations, according to a leading industry analyst.

Professor Garel Rhys, director of the centre for automotive research at Cardiff University Business School, believes that next years' review could open the way to fleets to buy large numbers of vehicles and have their own service and repair workshops go into vehicle sales.

Prof Rhys said that an opportunity was available to some larger fleets - thanks to a precedent established in the truck industry - to sell vehicles, a move which had not been challenged by Brussels.

"There will be more outlets for selling cars, and in the long term most will still be sold through the dealer network - they have completed the learning curve and it's up to others to prove they are better," he said. "But there will be outlets other than dealers which have contracts to sell new cars - supermarkets, dotcom companies and very large fleets. Many of the bigger truck fleets that deal direct with manufacturers and service their own fleets did not have to prove that their mechanics were trained by the factory. Bigger car fleet operators could be allowed to do the same."

He added that there was likely to be a split between sales and servicing, with more companies providing service facilities and fewer larger companies involved in vehicle sales.

The European Commission would allow retailers to choose whether to provide one or both of the services to customers, and large fleets managing their own workshops could deal direct with parts suppliers rather than buying from the manufacturer. (November 13, 2001)

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