ANOTHER of the south’s oldest motor dealership names has fallen victim to the recession after Hampshire-based Wyatt group collapsed under the weight of £1m in debts.

The firm has sold its last remaining sites to Southampton’s Freeborn.

The deal for the Winchester Citroen dealership – the headquarters of the group, and another in Wokingham for an undisclosed sum saves 35 jobs after Wyatt’s collapsed into administration.

The business failed just days before the introduction of the Government’s scrappage scheme which is intended to boost struggling car sales, by allowing people to trade in older carts for new ones with a £2,000 discount.

It’s the end for a family firm that once spanned the region but it represents a significant expansion for Freeborn.

The sale comes just weeks after the Hendy Group snapped up three Alan Day Honda dealerships in a £50m deal that protected 90 jobs. The sites in Southampton, Winchester and Portsmouth take Hendy’s total dealerships to 25 and added both the Honda brand and £40m in turnover to its books.

Anthony Fanshaw of administrators Begbies Traynor, said: “The same problem has affected a whole raft of dealerships throughout the country – falling sales. Wyatt were also being asked to invest more in the business by the franchisor and were facing a difficult market. They are just a victim of the recession.”

Freeborn, with a large site in Southampton and a second in Godalming, are already one of the largest privately-owned Citroen franchises in the country.

The firm also has an unusual business building Romahome motor homes, which are based on Citroen vans.

Andrew Jones, Freeborn managing director, said: “When these two dealerships got into difficulties it made sense to rescue them as they are a perfect fit for our business and bring experienced staff and loyal customers with them.

“Wyatt Group customers in Winchester and Wokingham can be assured that the staff they have dealt with in the past will be there in the future to help them and that they now have the backing of a major group to ensure this continues.

“These new outlets for Freeborn will form an important part of our growth. Although there are a few signs of recovery in the car trade our other business activities are still performing very well and have allowed us to remain strong.”