The publication today of Quicks Group's results confirmed expectations that the Manchester group had suffered much in a year marked by tightening margins on new cars and falling revenues on used cars.
Year-on-year, turnover was down from £600m in 1999 to £553m, attributed to vehicle volume and price reductions, profit before tax fell from £3.4m to £2m. This was a particular blow to Quicks since at the half year it had enjoyed an increase in pre-tax profits from £1.8m to £2.9m.
The fall was caused by less than expected sales and low profits, exacerbated by a weak aftersales market in the final quarter.
While nationally new car registrations increased 1.1%, Quicks' registrations fell by 1.7%. Used car sales fell by 6.5%, largely, the company said, due to “nearly new used vehicle customers switching to new car purchases as some manufacturers reduced new car prices”.
It was a similar picture in parts distribution. At the half-year profits were “well ahead” of 1999. In the second half, however, buying efficiencies reduced and costs increased and combined with the continuing reduction in turnover, left full-year profits just marginally ahead of 1999's.
It was these results that are understood to have led the Quicks' board to express its dissatisfaction at the performance of chief executive and director Richard Barber and his subsequent resignation last Friday.
Quicks says he left the company “to pursue other interests”. Former Lex Service executive David Beck has joined the Quicks board and will be acting chief executive until a permanent replacement is appointed.
On the plus side, the franchises Quicks had acquired for Peugeot at Halesowen and Saab in Northampton have made “extremely encouraging” starts. The new Jaguar franchise at Stockport, however, has had a difficult start.
Michael Moore, Quicks chairman, said: “There are encouraging signs that much of the market uncertainty is behind us and that retail demand is returning. March trading has been strong and the profit for the first quarter is anticipated to be in line with our budget.”