Peoples chairman Brian Gilda has warned of Brexit “Armageddon” for the UK’s automotive sector after the Scottish retail group negotiated “fierce competition and diminishing volumes” to realise a £274.4 million turnover.
The Falkirk-based retail operation, which claims to be Europe’s largest independent Ford franchised retailer, reported near-flat turnover performance (down 0.76% on last year) and a 13% decline in profit, to £5.5m (2016/17: £6.32m) in its annual financial results to July 31, 2018.
Gilda said that he was “delighted” with the business’s performance in a year which represented the company’s second highest turnover since he founded it 36 years ago and also saw a 7.9% in the group’s financial position in terms of total assets as a consequence of its strong trading performance.
He said: “Throughout the year the group has bettered all the operational benchmarks and financial milestones identified by the directors to our shareholders.
“I’m delighted with these results.
"The real story, however, is to be found in the determination of my directors, management and staff to once more deliver up the best possible results in the face of fierce competition and diminishing volumes in certain sections of the market.”
However Gilda, who is also chair of the influential Ford Europe Product Panel, warned the motor industry in the UK was “staring over a cliff edge” because of the Government’s failure to negotiate a Brexit deal.
He said: “Unless the Government gets a fix on Brexit, an agreement which doesn’t impose unacceptable tariffs and cross-border trading constraints, the UK motor industry is facing Armageddon. This is a huge industry in the UK and Brexit has the potential to do untold damage to it.
“Chancellor Philip Hammond in his announcement of a forthcoming budget on October 29 will have to be realistic and sensible because he can’t protect the economy unless Brexit is resolved.”
In his chairman’s statement, Gilda warned that Brexit had already damaged consumer confidence.
He said: “The combination of government actions north and south of the border along with no hard evidence implications of Brexit has led to a slowing of consumer confidence with the collateral damage on results.
“I recognised early on in our previous financial year that the private sector would be the first to show signs of stress and, as a consequence, concentrated our efforts in the commercial vehicle market to ensure we maintained volume and share.
“We will, of course, continue to review all revenue and cost items to ensure that we are as fit as we can be to best tackle the marketplace.”
Peoples employs 400 staff at three dealerships in Scotland – in Edinburgh, Livingston and Falkirk – and three in and around Liverpool.
In May, 2017, the group disposed of its Accrington dealership to Oldham Motor Company (OMC).
The group said that its best-selling cars during 2017/18 remained the Fiesta and Focus and the top-selling commercial vehicle is the Ford Transit.
Gilda said: “Ford leading-edge products like the all-new Focus, Fiesta, Mustang and the fantastic commercial vehicle range led by Transit are a benefit to have and a joy to sell along with the other market leading products we have in virtually every other sector we compete in.
“All needed, of course, as we are dependent on that and consumer confidence to allow us to continue to perform to the financial results we have been accustomed.”