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Wessex Group to close £6m turnover site but also invests

Bristol-based Wessex Garages will close a £6 million turnover dealership it has run for 15 years after failing to agree terms with its landlord, but it is investing elsewhere.

Keith Brock, managing director, said the freeholder of his Nissan and Citroën outlet in old premises at Hereford wanted a 48% rent increase before agreeing to a new 10 or 15-year lease.

The landlord, a Channel Isle trust, acquired the freehold in 2006 from the widow of Octav Botnar, first UK distributor of Nissans (then badged Datsuns here). The lease expires on Christmas Eve.

“We started negotiating early this year but could
not reach an agreement,” said Brock. “If the landlord had made an acceptable offer, I might have agreed, which could have been difficult now the market has fallen so far.” 

Twenty-two staff at the Hereford dealership will lose their jobs.
Wessex has 200 employees and Brock said other redundancies were possible. He said group turnover would be around £55 million this year (including the Hereford site) and “less” in 2009.

“We are cutting costs on what we have but investing in the future,” he said. 

“We have sometimes struggled with our Kia, Nissan and Fiat franchises, but their models are likely to be the sort of cars people want in an economic downturn.

“Things aren’t fantastic for us at the moment, but we’ve always been profitable, and are again this year. 

“Apart from Hereford, the rest of the business is fine. We took a hit on some big Nissan 4x4s, but we are all right now.”

Wessex Garages has solus Kia and Nissan dealerships in Bristol, and those brands plus Fiat at Newport in south Wales.

In Cardiff, it has Fiat (plus Abarth) and Kia on one site, and is spending £1.2 million on a Nissan outlet on adjoining land. 

In Gloucester, the group has Nissan and Fiat, and will be adding a Kia dealership.

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