A committee of Mercedes Benz dealers has appointed Burson-Marsteller in a bid to save its members' jobs.
Motor manufacturing giant DaimlerChrysler has indicated its intention to take control of 156 Mercedes dealerships in London, Manchester and Birmingham in a year's time. The 'dealer council' has responded to this by issuing a statement condemning the move and indicating that a legal challenge may be made.
As well as appointing law firm Allen & Overy to pursue the matter as a test case in court, the dealers have called on the Retail Motor Industry Federation to handle a media campaign.
RMI director of media Sue Robinson helped the dealers appoint B-M after a three-way pitch against Weber Shandwick Worldwide and Brunswick.
B-M's account is led by European public affairs chairman Gavin Grant.
Although fees have yet to be agreed, the agency is working on a time and materials basis and is likely to reap fees comfortably within the six-figure bracket.
The RMI represents 90 per cent of UK dealers. Although they already pay subscriptions to the body, the cost of hiring both B-M and the law firm is being met by extra contributions from Mercedes dealers.
Mercedes passenger car dealers met in Birmingham on 16 January and were unanimous in the view that a legal challenge should be lodged to the parent company's decision to axe the dealership network.
The RMI bought B-M on board in part because its four-strong in-house press office was busy with work for other bodies, such as the Petrol Retailers Association.
Opposition has greeted DaimlerChrysler's plan to increase prices for right-hand drive imports. The RMI's franchised dealer director Alan Pulham said this 'could lead to price control by the manufacturer'.