THE Co-operative Group has announced that Priory Motors is up for sale.
It is now inviting offers for its dealerships throughout the country.
The society is to exit the trade following a strategic review which has identified a requirement for major capital investment to acquire additional sites throughout the country in order to secure its long term future.
"There have been colossal changes within the sector over the past two years and to compete effectively, size has become increasingly important," said Priory's Managing Director, Bill Oliver. "We currently have 11 dealership sites representing 13 different brands and in today's market that does not give us sufficient buying strength.
"Consolidation within the sector has meant that almost 300 dealerships have changed ownership over the past year alone and there are now eight groups which have annual sales of more than £ 1 billion," said Mr Oliver. "We have had to face a difficult choice of whether to invest heavily in the business or to take advantage of the current acquisitive market. Unfortunately even major capital investment could not put us within reach of the market leaders."
Priory's outlets are located in five clusters within the North East, Nottinghamshire, Cheshire, Cambridgeshire and the south-east, which between them sell over 14,000 cars a year and employ 800 people.
"We have a strong customer base and have developed an excellent reputation over the years for client service but we would need to treble the size of the business to achieve the scale we believe is necessary to achieve long term success," said Mr Oliver. "We do not have the funds available to grow at that rate and have decided that the time is now right to sell while we still have a good business, a healthy customer base and an excellent team of employees."
The Group is in negotiations with potential purchasers and is expected to announce details of new owners later in the year.