Evans Halshaw, the motor dealer, yesterday announced record half-year profits as the benefits of its rapid expansion programme began to feed through.
The 19 per cent rise in taxable profits to pounds 8.23m came despite a fall of about 8 per cent in the UK retail car market this year.
Geoffrey Dale, chairman, said the private car market was barely above the levels seen at the bottom of the recession in the early 1990s. "Any marked improvement, therefore, will have an immediate benefit on the group's returns," he said.
Turnover rose 60 per cent, largely due to the company's expansion, and is up 125 per cent in two years. The integration of Davenport Vernon and GT Cars had gone well, but there was scope to improve margins.
Evans sold more than 19,000 new vehicles in the half-year and retail used-car sales numbered 16,500. Mr Dale said the overall operating margin of 2.5 per cent remained above the norm for the industry, in spite of expansion costs.
"The marketplace for most of our products has remained subdued and very competitive," Mr Dale said. The new-car market, while maintaining the prior year's volumes, had seen a further serious decline in higher-margin retail business in favour of less profitable fleet transactions.
Dealerships with manufacturers losing retail-market share had generally performed disappointingly. But given the balance of franchises and sectors in the group's portfolio, the relative success of individual manufacturers was less important than previously, Mr Dale said.