The Mercedes Benz UK Dealers' Campaign today rejected DaimlerChrysler UK's justification of its decision to terminate dealer contracts in December of this year and will now take the case to the courts.
Commenting at a packed campaign briefing of Mercedes-Benz dealers held at the National Motorbike Museum in Birmingham, Nick Adams, spokesman for the campaign and managing director of John Tallis (Bath), said: "We have now received the response from DaimlerChrysler UK. They've made us wait an extra six days for it.
"But their refusal to acknowledge their inappropriate action and withdraw the notice of termination delivered to every Mercedes-Benz dealer in the UK leaves us with no choice but to defend the interests of our customers, staff and businesses in court.
"We are very confident of winning that action."
Mercedes dealers wrote to DC-UK asking them to "justify or withdraw" its termination notices.
But the company is understood to have merely acknowledged receipt of the dealers' letter. There was no explanation of why it had taken its action.
The campaign was launched with the backing of dealers on the eve of the Geneva motor show last month when Mr Adams announced that the dealers would fight DaimlerChrysler UK's decision.
"I said then that we would prefer not to fight this in court but DaimlerChrysler UK's response has left us with no choice," Adams added.
The move to terminate the dealers contracts follows UK price reductions forced on the car manufacturer by the campaign waged by the Consumers' Association.
Dermot Kelly, Mercedes Benz UK director told Automotive Management its decision was based on "the needs of our customers".
"I am thinking of what is right for the brand."
But DaimlerChrysler UK's action to terminate all of the independent dealers signals a clear indication that the car giant wants to control the UK market, says its dealers.
They plan to do this through 'experience centres' in London, Birmingham and Manchester with an additional 24 hub dealers who will be asked to cover much larger territories.
"DaimlerChrysler UK's whispering campaign waged against the dealers shows how weak their case really is. But the facts speak for themselves.
"The UK Mercedes-Benz dealer network is one of the most successful in the world. We sold 65,000 units last year, despite 15,000 imports from the continent. Our customer satisfaction survey numbers are high. We provide a first class and highly competitive service to our customers," Adams said.
Should these plans come to fruition then DaimlerChrysler UK will effectively end real competition in the UK, Mr Adams said. They will be directly controlling around 40% of UK Mercedes-Benz car sales in just three cities alone.
"This level of direct control, coupled with the vast areas of the country under control of one hub dealer, will mean customers will have to travel huge distances to get competitive quotes. How will that benefit the customer?
"Consequently, as customers begin to understand what is at stake here we are also finding a growing level of support from them," added Adams.
Since the launch at Geneva, the dealers' campaign has been gathering momentum and support, particularly in Parliament.
"We have had important discussions with senior politicians from all sides of the House who have expressed concern over DaimlerChrysler UK's attitude and action."
Questions have been asked in the House and today a group of MPs led by two members of the Trade and Industry Select Committee, Lindsay Hoyle and Bob Laxton, tabled an Early Day Motion, number 465, calling on the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Stephen Byers to refer the decision to the Director General of Fair Trading.
Dealers are writing to their local MPs to inform them of DaimlerChrysler UK's plans and to ask them to back the Early Day Motion.