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Slimmed-down Scottish dealer group sees profits surge

John Martin Group has recorded a surge in profits following its scaling back in the wake of the recession.

Accounts filed by the Scottish dealer group show pre-tax profits leaped to £2.6 million in 2010 from £303,000 the previous year.

That included a £1.3m one-off boost from the sale of three sites – Vauxhall in Aberdeen and Edinburgh to Peter Vardy, and Citroën/Hyundai in Stirling to Arnold Clark.

That leaves it with four bodyshops and 11 sites representing marques including Aston Martin, Chrysler Jeep, Hyundai, Kia, Peugeot, Rolls-Royce and Volvo.

With the down-sizing, turnover fell to £129.9m in 2010 from £146.9m. However, operating profits rose by 50% to £2.4m from £1.6m.

Headcount was reduced by 134 to 480, largely due to the disposals, reducing payroll costs by more than £2.5m.

Managing director Gordon Nisbet said trading has been tough, but the business had controlled its overheads much better and worked on improving margins.

“It’s just getting down to the basics and doing things correctly,” he added.

Its dealerships, which trade under Murray Motor Company or Belmont brands, have been focused on CRM and “taking every opportunity available” in a market which is getting even tougher in 2011, Nisbet added.

With the business strengthened, the group added a Kia franchise in Edinburgh and Hyundai in Glasgow at the start of this year, its second for each brand.

That was followed by the opening of its third Suzuki franchise in Kemnay, near Aberdeen, in June.

These are expected to replace some of the revenue lost from exiting Vauxhall last year.

Nisbet said he is pleased to expand with them, given their retail bias, and he feels encouraged by their ambitions for growth and management teams.

Although the retail market has been hit hard, Nisbet said he believed this is largely down to poor con-
sumer confidence.

The message from dealers and the media to consumers must highlight the low interest rates and strong incentives on offer, he said.

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