Arnold Clark turnover hits record £3 billion mark

Milngavie Arnold Clark car dealership. Picture: Jamie Forbes
Milngavie Arnold Clark car dealership. Picture: Jamie Forbes
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SCOTS car giant Arnold Clark has marked its 60th year of trading with record-breaking turnover and a surge in profits driven by used car sales.

The group, Scotland’s biggest privately-owned company, posted a 17.5 per cent rise in sales to £2.92 billion in 2013. Pre-tax profits jumped by an even healthier 40 per cent to £85.2 million.

In newly-filed accounts with Companies House, founder and chairman Sir Arnold Clark described the near-17 per cent rise in used car sales as “incredible”. The group sold just shy of 143,000 used vehicles last year, which accounted for the bulk of the increase in profitability.

New car sales grew by 10.9 per cent in what was a buoyant market, though that was expected to flatten in the current year.

Arnold Clark Finance, the group’s contract hire and rental business, contributed £12m to group profits on turnover of £170m. The division further strengthened its position in September with the acquisition of Towquest, its main software provider.

Overall, the board anticipates “modest” growth in the wider UK market in 2014. The Scottish group expects its own turnover will continue to grow, though profits will likely remain static.

“Despite some improvements in the wider economy, we anticipate a challenging year ahead for the motor industry,” Sir Arnold said in his statement. “We have consistently demonstrated that we can succeed against this backdrop and early trading results have been encouraging.”

Following an acquisition spree in 2012, the group launched an extensive redevelopment drive aimed at maximising performance across both new and existing sites.

All five of its Mercedes dealerships received substantial upgrades, and a purpose-built facility opened in Armadale to officially become the largest Citroen dealership in the UK. New showrooms were built in Perth and Edinburgh, and redevelopment continued at East Kilbride Toyota and Langstracht Ford in Aberdeen.

Tenanted motor dealerships were bought out in Glasgow, Leicester, Stirling, Stourbridge, Warrington and Wolverhampton. The sole acquisition of the year, a Vauxhall dealership in Ayr, was completed in October.

The group’s website handled record levels of traffic, with more than 17 million web visitors in 2013.

“As a result of our digital focus, online sales enquiries have increased by 29 per cent and we have truly cemented our position as the UK’s number one dealer website,” Sir Arnold said.

During the year, the group opened its third GTG Training facility in Wolverhampton, that division’s first move south of the Border. Existing GTG premises in Edinburgh’s Sighthill are due for re-location to a site closer to the airport following the acquisition of a substantial property in Newbridge in October.

The company now employs more than 8,900, and has appointed a number of new directors following the promotion of members of its operations board.