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Auto Trader's profit margins rise to 67% as car dealers' spend increases

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Auto Trader has announced pre-tax profits of £211 million from £330m revenues during the year to March 31.

Its average monthly income per dealer forecourt has risen by 9% or £149 to £1,695, which it said has been driven by growth in stock, price and product.

Its operating profit margin has risen to 67% from 65%, and operating profit reached £220.6m, up 10%. Revenues were 7% up year-on-year.

The average physical car stock on its website increased 1% to 453,000 per month, with growth in stock per dealer forecourt compensating for a 1% decline in dealers using it to 13,213.

Auto Trader said its engagement with people searching for cars has increased, with ‘cross platform minutes’ per month having risen 6% to 618m minutes, from 582m minutes.

However, there have been 1m (0.4%) fewer monthly views of full page adverts, seen by dealers as a key indicator of interest in an advertised car. These averaged 246m.

The company still claims an audience three times larger than its nearest competitor, measured by Comscore.

In April 2017, it conducted its annual price rise and launched new advertising packages, and in April 2018 it "successfully monetised" its new dealer finance product, with 69% of eligible retailers opting to pay for it, said its statement to the stock market.

In the last 12 months it launched InSearch, its native advertising product which allows new cars to be promoted within search in a targeted way, and this has recently been enhanced to include a video format.

Auto Trader also enables dealers and manufacturers to use its Search API service to operate their own websites, allowing them to benefit from its taxonomy, valuations and product improvements, and a new Image app allows them to take high quality 360-degree interior and exterior shots of their stock.

Trevor Mather, Auto Trader chief executive, said: "This has been a strong year of revenue and profit growth for Auto Trader, driven predominately by retailer and manufacturer adoption of the new products that we launched throughout the year.

"Our market leading position has been enhanced by consumers spending more time on our site interacting with the wide range of adverts, products and advice that we offer.

"We have taken a big step in our strategy of improving car buying in the UK by launching the Dealer Finance product which allows consumers to find their next car by monthly payment and allows retailers to advertise finance on their cars earlier in the buying journey.”

Mather said that Auto Trader is “uniquely placed to help current customers and other automotive players adapt to the evolving automotive environment” in the UK.

He said that despite the challenging conditions for dealers in the past 12 months, Auto Trader  has “clearly seen that those who engage more closely with our products and our data are able to gain market share and improve efficiency”.

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