The Belgian car distribution landscape is constantly changing. Consolidation is the keyword, and foreign players are moving fast, especially the Dutch Van Mossel Group. Today, it is prepared to ‘eat’ the Vereenooghe Group, a collection of nine dealerships in West Flanders.
Vereenooghe is a family company, almost 100 years old, now run by nephews Alain and Michel Vereenooghe. Getting older, they saw no opportunities within the family to continue and grow the business further, so they turned to ‘Belgian market conqueror’ Van Mossel.
3 800 Mercedes cars and trucks
Last year, the Vereenooghe Group sold 3 800 Mercedes vehicles, one out of seven for the whole of Belgium. The turnover last year was €210 million, net profit was around 3,2 million. Of the nine dealerships, five are also selling trucks, and one of them is a special AMG performance center (one out of five in Belgium).
“The attitude of car buyers is changing quickly, and technology evolves drastically. Growth and renovation are the keys to lasting success, says Michel Vereenooghe. “As there was no direct succession available within the company and we wanted to secure the future, we decided to sell to Van Mossel group.”
Alain Vereenooghe adds: “To us, it was essential that our company becomes part of a strong player in the market. Van Mossel is expanding fast and shares our growth vision, where we care as much for our clients as we do for our employees.”
The Van Mossel group is expanding its Mercedes-Benz network in one move from 4 to 13 locations and, by doing so, becomes a severe competitor to other foreign investors like the Swedish Hedin Group. “Thanks to this acquisition, we are able to serve our clients even better,” says Koen Claesen, CEO of Van Mossel Belgium.
The deal with Vereenooghe makes Van Mossel the biggest Mercedes-Benz Trcks dealer in the country. “A strategic move regarding the vicinity of three big ports, Zeebrugge, Antwerp, and Rotterdam,” says Van Mossel Automotive Group CEO Eric Berkhof. Van Mossel already had Mercedes trucks dealerships in Deurne and Duffel (Antwerp region).
Van Mossel started its raid on the Belgian market in 2019. First in the Antwerp (GMAN) and Limburg provinces (Bruyninx), later also in Vlaams-Brabant (Van Kelst). There were other minor acquisitions, but at the beginning of last year, Van Mossel did a major take-over acquiring Fidenco and Autopolis Luxembourg. After other smaller acqusitions, the Vereenooghe group is now the second big deal Van Mossel has realized in Belgium.
Meanwhile, Van Mossel is already selling 77 000 new and 59 000 second-hand vehicles a year in the Benelux. But Van Mossel’s appetite isn’t completely stilled. There are ‘deserts’ like Eastern Flanders and the whole of Wallonia in its conquest map. Those are the next targets.
The Van Mossel Automotive Group totals 300 branches in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Germany. It has dealerships for brands like Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Corvette, Citroën, Dacia, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Ford, Hyundai, Isuzu, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Land Rover, Maxus, Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-Benz Vans, Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Fuso, MG, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Renault, Seat, Škoda, Smart, Suzuki, Volkswagen, and Volkswagen Commercial.
Apart from that, the group has several used cars dealerships and a chain of body-repair shops. It also offers several connected services like insurances, financing, special coachwork, and leasing and renting. All-in-all Van Mossel Automotive group counts 4 600 employees and realizes a yearly turnover of €3,5 billion.
Rapidly changing dealer landscape
Van Mossel is one of the more aggressive players on the dealer scene in Belgium and Luxembourg. Things are changing rapidly now, also because of the looming ‘electric era’. Electrification means that dealers will have to reinvent themselves.
A lot of car manufacturers are severely cutting in their dealer networks or simply and completely reorganizing it. The pressure on the small dealers becomes gigantic, the profit margins are getting wafer-thin. That’s where the dealer groups are coming in.
They play on big volumes and (like Van Mossel) try to concentrate and have a hand in everything. From new to second-hand car dealers, body-repair shops, leasing and renting companies, all in the same area, and controlled by one, big player.