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Profits crash as retailers face consumer backlash

Sunwin motor retail group, owned by Yorkshire Co-operatives, bucked the trend last year for lost profits, posting a 45.8% increase in turnover to £129.2m and a 6.6% rise in profits to £11.7m.

Chief executive Peter Marks said the results were down to a long-term investment and expansion programme.

“We're constantly looking to the future and to diversifying our interests in line with a constantly evolving market,” he said.

Dealers generally posted poor results last year, blaming a consumer backlash over the car pricing issue and Government inquiry, but they are confident that retail demand will make 2001 a strong year.

Yorkshire dealer group Dixon Motors posted a “satisfactory result” last year, with turnover up 6.4% to £702m and pre-tax profits down 6.9% to £7.5m.

Chairman Paul Dixon said: “While other retailers seemed to lessen the pace, we tackled the issues with a massive push in the last quarter from the sales team, aggressive marketing campaigns and a concerted effort in all areas of the business to reduce costs.”

Ryland has put five Midlands dealerships up for sale – two Vauxhall outlets in Birmingham and Renault franchises in Rugby, Coventry and Warwick – after posting a £5.9m loss last year, compared to a pre-tax profit of £12.6m in 1999.

Chairman Peter Whale said Ryland was making “good progress” towards “realigning its operational focus towards the luxury car market”.

Inchcape's UK profits crashed from £25m in 1999 to £700,000 last year, affected by market uncertainty and investment in online stock locator Autobytel.

Chairman Peter Johnson said the group had disposed of non-core businesses and was “focusing on six core markets, with excellent manufacturer relationships and an outstanding opportunity to deliver our UK strategy”.

Quicks suffered a poor second half last year after making a promising start to 2000.

Chairman Michael Moore said: “During the second half, vehicle sales and profits remained below last year, and the effect of this fall was exacerbated by a weak aftersales market in quarter four.

Prestige dealer HR Owen increased turnover by 4% to £498m, but pre-tax profits dropped 53% to £1.8m.

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