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EC to favour carmakers

Dealer groups and the RMIF have been warned to be wary because the European Commission has signalled favouring car manufacturers in the 2010 Block Exemption review.

Andrew Tongue, a director of the International Car Distribution Programme and an experienced Brussels watcher, made the comment after a presentation by Rainer Becker, a senior official in the EC competition directorate.

Becker, speaking at a London conference staged by Motor Law magazine, says his department has no preconceived ideas about future Block Exemption.

He believes the existing regulation has made it easier for car manufacturers to start selling within the EU. Broadly, he thinks the existing regulation has benefited consumers as intended, with prices among countries across Europe varying by no more than 4.5%.

“We are serious about being open minded and the next step will be consultation,” says Becker. He calls the location clause “a bit tricky”, and thinks it potentially has negative effects. He welcomes a trend towards greater competition among authorized repairers.

Commenting on Becker’s view of the existing regulation, Tongue says: “It looks as though the EC is leaning towards reviewing existing protection for dealers. It may be that all manufacturers have to do is to stay quiet, and the RMIF and dealers need to be aware of this.”

NFDA director Sue Robinson, who did not attend the conference, says: “We have started the lobbying process with EC officials and British government contacts.”

Gordon Seymour, managing director of Ford dealer Gordon’s of Bolton, says the new regulation needs to protect franchised dealers over retail car prices. He described carmakers’ attempts to maintain market share via direct sales as “almost dumping” cars with many “appearing quickly as used vehicles, which is unfair on dealers selling at the new price”.

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