The sinking of the Solent Motor Group has sent shockwaves through motor retailers along the south coast.
It has left staff and directors “totally devastated”, managing director Mike Miller told AM.
Before its collapse last week, Solent sold Citroën, Nissan and Mazda from three prime sites, within 600 yards of each other, along the main artery into Portsmouth. The operational territory included Gosport, Fareham, Havant and Emsworth.
More than 100 staff were employed at the £28 million turnover group until the economic downturn struck.
“We did everything in our power to save the company,” Miller said. “We cut back employees to 73 in a bid to get back on track but it was impossible.
“The motor industry is in a terrible state at the moment and I believe it will not return to better times for something like 12 months.
“For us it has been a nightmare and it will take a while to sort out all the financial matters, but I know that Citroën, Nissan and Mazda will each work with customers to ensure ownership and payment issues are resolved.”
Miller started the Citroën franchise 16 years ago, added Nissan five years later, then Mazda in 2002. He pledged that outstanding pay to his “great and loyal” staff would be honoured along with redundancy owed once the liquidator, Vantis, has finished work.
“We are doing everything by the book,” added Miller. “Most of the cars involved are owned by the finance company, Royal Bank of Scotland.”
Solent was a private concern – like most car dealers currently operating in the Portsmouth region.
Pendragon has a Vauxhall site opposite Solent Citroën, but family businesses have long been the mainstay of the motor trade in the area.
“I built up Solent from nothing,” said Miller. “I had staff who were fantastically committed and hard-
working and they were great to work with, but there was just no hope given the downturn in the industry. It is very, very sad.”
Mazda, Nissan and Citroën all said the collapse was disappointing and Solent had served them well. Nissan said Portsmouth is now an open point and it is looking for new representation.
Miller’s final words to AM: “I need a job – know of any going?”