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Progress Suzuki closes as COVID-19 lockdown proves ‘too much to bear’

Progress managing director Terence Byrne

Progress Suzuki managing director Terence Byrne has said that the UK’s automotive retail sector “will flourish again” following the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis – just days after his business went into liquidation.

And speaking to AM after the car retail group became a car retail sector casualty of the pandemic, Byrne celebrated the resilience and leadership shown by colleagues in the sector and shared his hopes that he and Progress’ 28 staff would find a place within it again.

He said that he had drawn inspiration from top business leaders from the AM100’s top car retail groups in recent weeks and was convinced that the sector would recover and flourish once again.

But, reflecting on the decision to place the two-site Suzuki GB franchise into liquidation, Byrne said: “It is tremendously sad given how close we got to the June 1 reopening that we have had to close the business.

“We’ve worked relentlessly and tirelessly since the lockdown on March 24, and Suzuki have proven themselves to be a great franchise partner, but – to cut a long story short – the enforced closure just proved too much for the business to bear.”

​In March 2019 Progress, which operated Suzuki franchises in Milton Keynes and Kettering, sold its Skoda businesses in Bedford, Harlow, Letchworth and Northampton to Marshall Motor Group for an undisclosed sum.

Byrne contacted AM shortly before the March 24 lockdown begun to share news of his efforts to bring custom into the business in light of consumer uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

The business had launched free 'clean air' air conditioning services for customers over 70 in a bid to show his business cares.

This week Byrne was attempting to demonstrate his care for the staff that Progress had been forced to let go in social media posts via Facebook and LinkedIn which appealed to neighbouring car retail groups to consider employing some of his 'inspiring' team.

He said: “I really would like to reach out to any motor retailers in the Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire and surrounding areas to say please make contact with me and I can play my part in helping these great people find their next role.

“They really are absolute world beaters, and some of the best I have worked with in my career.”

Reflecting on the impact Progress’ closure will have on its customers, Byrne said: “The Covid-19 pandemic which has devastatingly swept in and most importantly taken lives has also decimated good people’s livelihoods and businesses, very upsettingly after many years of operation we are one of those casualties.

“We are certain, hopeful and pray that soon again the sun will shine on us all and the Motor Industry will again flourish, we are saddened that we will not be able to play our part in that future.

“To not be able to look after our precious customers is the most painful and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their generous and much appreciated business over the years, we also thank them for being a friend of Progress.

“We are very sad that we will not be able to serve them in the future as we wanted to do.”

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