Ness Motors of Inverness is on the verge of being snapped up by Scotland’s biggest car dealer.
Glasgow-based Arnold Clark is poised to swoop on the business, which is currently owned by chairman Scott Lauder.
Staff at Ness Motors have received letters confirming the move, although takeover talks are still ongoing.
Mr Lauder acquired Ness Motors from Bill Gilbert in 1982, having joined the firm 10 years earlier as its accountant.
His decision to sell comes just a few months after he told the Press and Journal about a 21% jump in new car sales.
Reporting thriving business for the year to September 30, he said: “In my 42 years with the company, we’ve never enjoyed such sales growth.”
Mr Lauder attributed the big increase to strong demand for Ness Motors’ Dacia range, which saw 48% year-on-year growth, while Citroen sales rose by 11.4%.
But the faster pace of cars leaving the showrooms also coincided with a big surge in demand at dealerships throughout the UK as the motor trade industry picked up after the recession.
Ness Motors employs more than 100 people at showrooms in Inverness, Elgin and Perth.
In the Highland capital, it has five sites selling Dacias, Renaults, Saabs, Citroens and SsangYongs. The firm has two showrooms each in Elgin and Perth, selling Dacias and Renaults.
Ness Motors also supplies parts and carries out maintenance and repairs on cars and commercial vehicles.
Arnold Clark, led by multimillionaire chairman and chief executive Sir Arnold Clark, already sells cars through seven dealerships in Inverness plus six in Perth and one in Elgin.
Mr Lauder could not be contacted last night.
Arnold Clark managing director Eddie Hawthorne said: “We are negotiating with Mr Lauder to purchase Ness Motors and are consulting with the staff.
“We will provide a more detailed comment when the transaction is complete.”
Ness Motors was formed in 1960 and acquired the Renault franchise for the north 11 years later.
Its Elgin operation was launched in 1986 after the firm secured the Renault franchise for Moray and Banffshire.
In 1998, the company moved from its original premises in Telford Street, Inverness, to a purpose-built facility in Harbour Road.
Expansion south in 2006 came via the takeover of Inveralmond, the Renault dealership in Perth.
The last accounts lodged by the firm at Companies House show Ness Motors employed 107 people, on average, in 2013.
Pre-tax profits fell to £205,562 that year, from £291,906 previously, but turnover grew by nearly 16% to £47.45million.
Ness Motors said vehicle sale profits were up by £348,000 but it was a “challenging” year for after sales services, where profits were down by £210,000.
Developments for 2014 included a new call centre to source business and process bookings, while the firm was looking to build on a “very successful” year for Dacia sales.