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£2bn turnover Pendragon pulls away as No1 group

Pendragon, which continues to top the AM100, has broken through the £2bn turnover barrier by the comfortable margin of £89m.

Trevor Finn's group's new sales figure is £119m higher than it recorded in May last year. This partly takes into account the acquisition of the 32-outlet Lex Retail, listed at £792m in the updated AM100 last November.

The old turnover of Lex Retail, once a clear leader when the group was striving for a national brand, is only one factor. Pendragon remains in a constant state of change, balancing its franchising needs with manufacturers' territorial requirements.

Ford has a 49% stake in the group of 31 Pendragon dealerships selling its cars and light commercials.

The predicted growth in Pendragon's turnover was blunted by the fall-off in sales during the closing months of 1999, when retail buyers were waiting for a fall in new car prices.

Mr Finn (Automotive Management, March 17) said “the market moved against us” in the final quarter of last year. The downturn cost Pendragon £60m of turnover in the final quarter which took £7.5m “straight off the bottom line”. Pendragon has reasserted itself as the UK's largest car retailer (in terms of turnover) by a large margin. This time last year, it was £120m ahead of Lancaster which remains in second place.

The 2000 listing though shows that Pendragon's turnover is now almost half a billion pounds bigger (£489m) than Lancaster's. Ian Ritchie's group includes the whole turnover of Polar Motor Group, Lancaster's joint venture with Ford Motor Company.

Lancaster's new turnover of £1.6bn is £250m down on May 1999 – both are company estimates. Lancaster has not given Polar's turnover figure though it was around £750m a year ago.

The Lancaster figure excludes two Ford dealerships in Surrey – with a combined £24m turnover last year – which were bought from Page Holdings.

Reg Vardy, with some ease, retains the No3 spot in the AM100, and its turnover has risen by £100m over the past 12 months to £1.3bn. This is an Automotive Management figure, estimated in conjunction with RSM Robson Rhodes, partners in compiling the AM100.

Vardy's total of outlets is nine higher at 87. Lancaster's rose by four and Pendragon's by 24, to 202. Sanderson Bramall has made further progress, with an £11m increase in turnover taking it to £812m, and fourth place.

Tony Bramall's group has exchanged places with Inchcape Motors Retail (now at No5) whose turnover has fallen by £61.5m since May 1999 to £812m. Hartwell remains at No6 though its turnover has dropped slightly since May 1999. The biggest riser in the top 10 is Arnold Clark. Last year, when 10th, its turnover was £643m – that figure has grown to £723m and it is now in seventh place.

Mr Clark continues as chairman and chief executive of a group which proves private ownership can be a winner in times of multi-national manufacturers investing in parts of large quoted groups.

Dixon Motors continues its dazzling rise. In the 1998 listing it was at No21 but rose sharply to No13 a year ago. Now it has reached ninth place, with a turnover of £660m. Eleven outlets have been added over the past 12 months but more significant was the e-commerce deal with Direct Line, which claims to be the UK's biggest retail motor insurer.

This month Dixon Motors has announced its own price list which in effect marks the end of the recommended retail listing.

Bristol Street Motors has made good progress since it was spun off from a group also manufacturing automotive and aerospace products.

It has moved into 10th position, one above another Midland-based business, Ryland. The group has added added 10 outlets since last spring.

Renault Retail Group has fallen four places to 12th position, with its turnover slumping from £665.6m to £617m. It is though still ahead of Robins & Day, the network of Peugeot's own dealerships, which is at 14th with a turnover of £580m.

Camden Motors, up from No19 to 16th, has been reorganised by chief executive Paul Dunkley over the past three years. The group, whose chairman is Sir Geoff Whalen, the former Peugeot UK boss, has forged stronger links with manufacturers.

Dutton Forshaw has risen three places to No20 and Nick Lancaster's HR Owen is a new entry in the AM100 top 20, sharing 18th place with HMG Holdings. Perry Group has slipped further, clinging on to membership of the Major League in the final position.

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