s.a. D'Ieteren n.v.

High-end shopping in Brussels means heading for Avenue Louise where all the big names and one-of-a-kind boutiques are located. Avenue Louise runs for several miles with side streets leading to Brussels' many diverse neighborhoods. D'Ieteren's head office building can be found in one of these neighborhoods. Built in1964, the huge 50,000 square meter (over 500,000 square feet) structure pretty much encompasses the whole block and is surrounded by cafes, apartments and small retail establishments.

You can tell what D'Ieteren does by checking out the picture that accompanies this story. Yep, that's a car dealership you see. You want to buy a new Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Seat, Skoda, Lamborghini or Porsche in Belgium you gotta go through D'Ieteren because they're the exclusive importers and distributors. The company also owns Belron, one of the world's largest vehicle glass replacement concerns and controls Avis Europe. Revenues in 2004 totaled 3.3 billion euros and 7,600 employees.

Visitors check-in at the reception counter located on the showroom floor. My letter of introduction mailed a month earlier was addressed to CEO & Chairman Roland D'Ieteren but, it turns out the CEO reins were recently handed over to Jean-Pierre Bizet. No problem though as I have an excellent visit thanks to Philippe Casse, Corporate Public Relations.

About 500 people work here. I mentioned the building being built in1967 but D'Ieteren has been on this site since1906. Matter of fact, D'Ieteren's roots date back all the way to1805 when the company started out building horse-drawn carriages. In the early 1900's the company was building and assembling car bodies.

Meeting rooms are name after antique cars, effective January 2006 smoking will not be allowed in offices, the company cafeteria serves only cold sandwiches, there's no onsite recreational facilities--though showers are available and no formal dress code. If you don't have a company car then there's a waiting list for a parking spot but, employees commuting via bicycle enjoy covered parking spots. Any employee perks? Employees can purchase one car a year at a "very special" price. I can't see Bizet's fifth floor corner office because "he's not in".

Casse wants to show me the company museum and I'm thinking small room with history time line and pictures on the walls. Boy, am I ever wrong. It's a full-blown car museum occupying a whole floor with over 90 out of the museum's 250 automobiles on display. Ever seen a 1920 Studebaker, 1923 Bentley, 1924 Excelsior, 1931 DKW or 1934 Auto Union? They're all here. It's one of the largest private-owned car collections in Europe but isn't open to the public.

Company website: www.dieteren.be