New car dealership rolls on to the Scots forecourt

SCOTLAND'S car dealerships face competition from a new name following the second swoop north of the Border by Aim-listed Vertu Motors.

The firm yesterday said it was launching the Macklin Motors brand after snapping up Johnston of Renfrewshire, which runs a major Peugeot franchise on the outskirts of Paisley.

The 2.1 million deal comes hot on the heels of Vertu's acquisition in January of Dunfermline Autocentre for 2.7m.

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At the time, the group's chief executive Robert Forrester said he would use that takeover as a springboard for expansion.

The new Macklin name will soon adorn the Johnston Peugeot showroom and be used for subsequent acquisitions north of the Border. Dunfermline Autocentre, which is one of Scotland's biggest Ford dealers, will also rebrand.

Vertu was set up in autumn 2006 and floated as a cash shell to take advantage of consolidation within the industry. It trades mainly under the Bristol Street Motors banner from some 60 sites following the March 2007 acquisition of the UK's 13th largest motor retailer.

Forrester said the group's second deal in Scotland was "a continuation of our strategy to grow a scaled motor retail group across the UK in targeted regions".

He added: "The Peugeot franchise is very much in the ascendancy on the back of excellent new models such as the 3008, 5008 and the soon-to-be-launched RCZ sports car."

In a little over a year, Newcastle-based Vertu has added 16 sales outlets to its UK-wide portfolio. Marques sold by the firm include Honda, Hyundai, Vauxhall and Chevrolet.

The Macklin Motors arm will face stiff opposition from established Scottish heavyweights such as Eastern Western, Arnold Clark and Belmont-owner John Martin.

Indigenous dealerships Phoenix Car Company and Peter Vardy have also been hitting the acquisition trail in recent years.

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Vertu said the 2.1m paid to take on Johnston included long-leasehold property valued at 1.4m and was settled in cash.

In the year to May 2009, the dealer did some 5.5m worth of business selling and servicing Peugeots. Co-owners Alastair Johnston – a descendent of the company's founder – and David Proctor are bowing out following the sale of the business.

Forrester said Vertu already enjoyed a "strong relationship" with the French carmaker, running six franchises south of the Border.

A 200,000 refurbishment of the Paisley site is planned, bringing the showroom up to Peugeot's latest "Blue Box" standards.

"The Paisley dealership is in a prime retail location and represents a strengthening of the group's relationship with Peugeot; therefore, we are excited by the opportunities," added Forrester.