VANCOUVER – Mercedes-Benz Canada has put its four corporately owned Metro Vancouver dealerships up for sale.
The German automaker directly owns 11 of its 59 Canadian stores, including two in Vancouver and two more in suburban Richmond and North Vancouver. Two more dealerships in Langley and Surrey are privately owned.
The plan also includes selling a company-owned body shop bundled with the North Vancouver store, the company said in a statement to Automotive News Canada.
The divestment program was not formally announced but was “not a secret,” added Mercedes communications director JoAnne Caza.
“The employees were informed first because we wanted to be honest and open and transparent, so they knew exactly what what was going on,” she said.
The four stores account for about 15 per cent of Mercedes total Canadian sales volume, president Brian Fulton said in an interview.
The sell-off was directed by the board Daimler, Mercedes-Benz Canada’s German parent, he said.
“For us here in Canada it was not something we were looking to do,” Fulton said. “It was something clearly not on our radar.”
Daimler has a global strategy of selling off corporate stores, including Australia, Britain, Belgium and Germany, where 63 of 158 Mercedes dealerships have been sold since 2014.
The board approved the program April 11 and Fulton said it’s hoped the transactions, which affect about 450 employees, will be concluded buy the end of this year or early next.
Canada ranks No. 1 globally in terms of own-store retail sales as a percentage of overall volume, he said.
In the last 20 years Mercedes-Benz Canada sold five corporate stores, including three in the Montreal area, one in London, Ont., and a Metro Toronto store in Newmarket, Ont.
Mercedes-Benz Canada was founded in 1955. Caza said difficulty in finding dealers willing to support a low-volume import brand in the early years resulted in the company owning many of its own stores initially. The practice persisted because the model was profitable, as it was in other markets.
Fulton said expressions of interest – “too many to count” – have come from dealers in Canada and internationally, some who already own Mercedes stores.
The Vancouver sales will leave Mercedes with seven corporate dealerships in the Toronto area. Fulton said he has reassured Toronto dealer staff there are no plans to sell those stores.
“There’s zero discussion right now with regards to Toronto,” he said, noting the company has just acquired property for an expanded dealership in suburban Etobicoke.
Customers will not experience any changes, the company said in its statement, and they should expect the same or better levels of sales and service at those locations in future.