Scottish Ford dealership boss warns industry facing 'dark side of the moon'

The chairman of Scottish Ford dealership heavyweight Peoples has warned that without a Brexit deal, the entire industry faces “the dark side of the moon”.

Brian Gilda is the chairman and entrepreneur who founded the Scottish Ford Peoples car dealership business. Picture: Martin Shields

Releasing annual results for his business empire, Brian Gilda cautioned over the adoption of World Trade Organisation rules, which could add significantly to the cost of a new car.

Gilda, who founded Peoples almost four decades ago and chairs the influential Ford of Europe Product Panel, said there had been “encouraging activity levels due to pent up demand” since showrooms re-opened post-lockdown.

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But with a no-deal Brexit looming he also warned: “Without a deal, the industry would be facing the dark side of the moon by having to adhere to World Trade Organisation rules imposing tariffs which could add 10 per cent to the cost of a vehicle.

“A deal has to be reached because it is vital for the health of our industry which employs thousands of people in manufacturing, sales and support.”

The group employs 385 staff across three dealerships in Scotland – in Edinburgh, Livingston and Falkirk – and three in and around Liverpool. Despite the coronavirus crisis, only three posts were lost through redundancy, the firm said.

Its annual report shows turnover for the year ended 31 July totalling just under £242.3 million compared to the previous year’s figure of £277.4m. Profits before tax and preference share dividends amounted to a little over £3m, against almost £4.6m in 2019.

Thanks largely to the profitable trading performance, the report also showed an increase of 2 per cent in the group’s total net assets.

Unit sales were down 16.2 per cent overall with the figures reflecting the impact of the pandemic which meant the company’s six dealerships had to be locked down in March and the consequent furloughing of most of its employees. The dealerships reopened in May, initially with their workshops, followed by the sales departments.

Gilda said: “The real story is to be found in the determination of my directors, management and staff to once more deliver up these results in the face of the pandemic, fierce competition and diminishing volumes in certain sections of the market. That, coupled with the outstanding loyalty of our customers, is what makes these results special.

“It does not, however, mean that we can declare all is well with the world and we can allow ourselves the luxury of taking our foot off the gas. For me and my team this is just not possible in the arena in which we operate.”

He added: “I recognised early on in our previous financial years that the private sector would be the first to show signs of stress and as a consequence concentrated our efforts in the commercial vehicle market to ensure we maintained volume and share.

“We will, of course, continue to review all revenue and cost items to ensure we are as fit as we can be to best tackle the marketplace.”

The group’s best-selling cars remain the Fiesta and Focus and the top-selling commercial vehicle is the Ford Transit.

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