Trafficmaster clears the way for profitable year

Trafficmaster, which makes in-car traffic-jam warning systems, yesterday reported a 38 per cent leap in losses for 1996 but predicted it would be profitable this year.

Sir Colin McKinnon, chairman, said: "New European developments make the medium and long-term outlook increasingly exciting." He attributed last year's increased losses of pounds 3.4m to a jump in marketing spending of almost pounds 1m.

Turnover was up 35 per cent following Vauxhall's decision in August to fit Trafficmaster's Oracle congestion warning system on at least 100,000 Vectras. Fourth-quarter sales almost matched those for the rest of the year.

Trafficmaster operates what it claims is the world's only in-car traffic congestion warning system. Roadside infra-red sensors send information about traffic speed to a central office. Subscribing drivers receive spoken or visual broadcasts.

The company hopes Oracle will become a marketable car feature and it hopes to go into the black, following sales of 40,000 Oracle units since December, compared with 56,000 in the previous year, new subscribers and recent deals.

In January Vauxhall decided to make Oracle standard on all Vectras and extend it to other models. Although other car manufacturers have indicated intentions to fit Oracle, they want to install it in car radios. Trafficmaster said this would delay reaching sales targets and has accelerated plans for a car radio unit, which is due this year.

It also plans a service which reports congestion to cellular telephone users, who can phone for detailed information. It is working with Blaupunkt and Philips to integrate Oracle into their in-car navigation systems.

This month Trafficmaster licensed Germany's Mannesmann Autocom and T- Mobil, part of Deutsche Telecom, to cover the autobahn with Oracle.