Car dealership giant Arnold Clark has marked its 60th anniversary with record sales but warned of a “more challenging” 2015 as the market cools.
Newly filed accounts for the Glasgow-based firm show that turnover rose by 11.9 per cent last year to a bumper £3.3 billion, sealing its status as Scotland’s biggest privately owned company.
Founding chairman and chief executive Sir Arnold Clark described 2014 as a “truly remarkable year for the group”.
While sales of new cars underperformed the market with a year-on-year rise of 3.1 per cent there was a near-11 per cent surge in the number of used cars sold. In total, the group, which has about 200 dealerships both north and south of the Border, sold almost 250,000 vehicles.
The latest Companies House documents also reveal that operating profit before goodwill amortisation rose by £23.2 million to £120.3m. At the pre-tax level, profits lifted to £107.3m from £85.2m a year earlier.
Writing in the accounts, Clark said: “It is very fitting that the group’s 60th anniversary year has been the most successful to date.
“This success would not be possible without the support of our staff, vehicle manufacturers, funders and other business partners.”
He added: “We anticipate that 2015 will be a more challenging year than 2014 and expect that the new car market will remain relatively static with used cars showing more modest growth.
“Notwithstanding the challenges ahead, we look forward to another successful year for the group. It remains our stated policy to keep the group well funded and able to react to any challenges or opportunities which present themselves.”
Arnold Clark Automobiles started with a single showroom, in Glasgow, in 1954 and has grown to become one of the largest car dealership groups in Europe. During 2014 it expanded its “prestige” car offering with the acquisition of Calterdon, which operated BMW and Mini franchises in Inverness. Both operations are now trading under the group’s Harry Fairbairn brand.
Last year also saw the opening of a number of additional sites, including the development of a new Motorstore and Fiat facility in Leeds. A “striking” new branding concept unveiled at the Yorkshire operation is to be rolled out to all other Arnold Clark Motorstores.
Towards the tail-end of the year, a newly built GTG Training facility was opened near Edinburgh Airport, with the larger capital centre mirroring similar facilities in Glasgow and Wolverhampton.
Since the year-end, the group acquired Ness Motors, which has operations in Elgin, Inverness and Perth. It has also invested in the overhaul and expansion of several dealerships.
According to the accounts, the overall headcount increased by about 250 during the year to 9,184. The highest-paid director, assumed to be Clark himself, received just under £3.4m, up from £2.8m.