Supermarket giant, Auchan, is reported to be eyeing the launch of its own distribution network for car sales by the end of the year.

The French group, which is said to be planning a network of around 50 auto centres under the Hyper Plus Auto name, is in contact with several auto traders, including Antwerp-based Interlease, which sells close to 10,000 vehicles annually.

Confirming contacts with operators in the sector, the chain said it had not yet decided on its plans given the uncertainty of the market. Two years ago, Auchan signed an agreement with Lancia only for the Italian car maker to pull out under pressure from dealers.

The regulatory framework having changed, Auchan is waiting to launch its offensive in October this year when auto manufacturers are set to renegotiate contracts which link them to dealers.