Double digit growth for JCT600 despite '˜challenging' year

YORKSHIRE'S largest family business, car retailer JCT600, is marking double digit growth as it once again saw revenues break the billion pound mark.

John Tordoff, chief executive of JCT600
John Tordoff, chief executive of JCT600

The latest figures give the Bradford-headquartered business another reason to celebrate, just five months on from when it brought together 2,000 of its staff, suppliers and contacts at Leeds’s First Direct Arena to mark its 70th anniversary in January.

In the year to December 31, 2015, sales rose 12 per cent to £1.145bn - up from £1.025bn in 2014; and pre-tax profit rose marginally to £18.61m, from £18.56m in 2015 - despite increasing pressure on margins in what proved to be a competitive and challenging year in the car retail market.

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While the likes of the VW emissions scandal might have dominated headlines in the sector last year, making quarter four “particularly tough” for the company, chief executive John Tordoff said it was these wider pressures on margins, combined with a rise in its cost base, that proved most challenging.

“It is difficult to calculate exactly what the impact [of the emissions scandal] was, and as we were going into 2016, VW registrations were about 10 per cent down, said Mr Tordoff. “It wasn’t just a quick bang and back to normal - it has left a legacy, and it will take a period of time to recover. But I am 100 per cent confident it will recover.

“But there have been much bigger challenges. The press has reported fantastic growth in new car registrations, month on month on month, but a lot are forced registrations by manufacturers chasing market share.

“Margins are down and at the same time costs are going up.”

This year, it has also been faced by a slow-down linked with uncertainty over the EU referendum, which Mr Tordoff said has knocked consumer confidence, particularly in April and May.

Despite these challenges, JCT600 is midway through a four-year programme of investing between £45, and £50m in new dealerships and redeveloping its current portfolio.

Last year it made an £18.3m acquisition of two Mercedes Benz dealerships in Harrogate and York, and in July launched a new fully responsive web platform which has resulted in a 300 per cent rise in visitors to the website from mobile devices and a 64 per cent increase in leads.

New vehicle sales once again outperformed the market, rising by 10 per cent compared with the industry average of a 6 per cent increase for the brands represented by JCT600. Aftersales also saw growth with turnover rising by 12 per cent and gross profit by 13 per cent. It is also striving to do its best for its 2,300-strong workforce - and focussing on being the “best car retailer rather than the biggest”.

Mr Tordoff said: “While the market is extremely competitive, we have proved able to continue to win market share based on our 70 year heritage of offering great value, a choice of quality brands and outstanding service. We are constantly looking for ways of improving the customer’s experience with ongoing investments in our team and dealerships as well as implementing industry leading initiatives.

“We are particularly proud of the progress we have made in our quest to be ‘the best place to work’ with JCT600 this year achieving the Sunday Times ‘Best 100 Companies to Work For’ accreditation.”

Looking ahead, JCT600 group finance director, Nigel Shaw, added: “The economic outlook has improved greatly in the last few years and, once the Brexit debate is behind us, we expect business and consumer confidence to remain buoyant going forward. With our long heritage and excellent reputation, JCT600 is well placed to continue to take full advantage of these favourable conditions and we hope to see a period of sustained growth.”

The rise to Yorkshire’s largest family firm

THE JCT600 story began in 1946, when Edward Tordoff founded Brooklands Garage on Sticker Lane, Bradford.

Four years later his son Jack, then aged 15, joined the company as an apprentice mechanic and it was he who subsequently built the business from a single dealership into the largest privately owner business in Yorkshire. It now has 50 dealerships from Lincolnshire to Newcastle, representing 18 of the world’s leading car marques.

Jack’s son John is now chief executive, and his father remains in the business as chairman. The company name dates back to 1961, when Jack Tordoff bought a Mercedes 600 bearing the registration number ‘JCT600’ his full name being Jack Crossley Tordoff.