Taggarts group drives up sales as confidence grows

MOTORING group Lookers, which owns a string of dealerships across Scotland, said growing consumer confidence had led to bumper sales.

Lookers reported 'excellent trading performance' in the first three months of 2014. Picture: Getty
Lookers reported 'excellent trading performance' in the first three months of 2014. Picture: Getty

The company, which owns Taggarts and the Lomond brand north of the Border, reported an “excellent trading performance” in the first three months of the year. The period includes the crucial plate-change month of March when showrooms traditionally see a spike in custom.

Industry figures showed new car registrations jumped to their highest level in a decade in March as consumers, buoyed by low interest rates and a strengthening housing market, felt more confident about buying big-ticket items.

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Last month’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ data revealed that sales leapt 17.7 per cent compared with a year earlier to 464,824 vehicles – the most in a single month since March 2004.

Lookers said its “core” new car sales had surged 25 per cent during the quarter, on a like-for-like basis, compared with a market gain of 14 per cent. Fleet volumes were up by 6 per cent, slightly behind the market, though the group noted that it was focusing on higher margin business.

Its after-sales business increased turnover by 9 per cent, again on a like-for-like basis, compared to last year as well as improving its margins.

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb described the update as “bullish”, highlighting the jump in after-sales servicing as “one of the more striking figures”, given “what been quite a depressed market”.

While car dealers have been benefiting from the upturn in the fortunes of the industry, insurers have seen their performance dented by a fall in motor premiums.

Admiral today posted a 7 per cent slide in its turnover during the first quarter of the year despite a 6 per cent increase in customers at the Cardiff-headquartered group.

Its insurance premiums were down 11 per cent year-on-year, though the number of vehicles it insured in the UK rose 2 per cent to 3.08 million.