Swansway Group has reported a massive 155 per cent rise in pre-tax profit from £4m in 2019 to a record £10.2m for 2020.
The results are being seen by the directors as reaffirming their decision to take the vast majority of staff off furlough and bring them back to work on full salaries last May.
Its accounts for the year ended December 31 also show that while group turnover fell from £725.5m in 2019 to £711.8m last year, its EBITDA rose from £12m to £17.1m – the result, it said, of re-evaluating its business model two years ago.
The lockdowns may have stopped people from physically visiting its showrooms but digital transactions were carried out via click-and-collect, and the Swansway website saw a 31 per cent increase in sessions to 2.5m, leading to 39 per cent more digital inquiries.
Meanwhile, another 5.7m people engaged with its social media channels – an 18 per cent rise on 2019.
Sales of new retail and fleet vehicles went up from 16,622 to 17,862, while those of used cars and vans rose from 12,937 to 13,436.
The Audi division made ‘a particularly significant improvement in contribution’ to the group’s financial performance – especially Crewe, Preston, Blackburn and Carlisle.
Also helping was completing the transition of the former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles site in Chester into a standalone Motor Match used car site, moving it into profit after years of losses.
The family-owned company said it had reaped the rewards of swift innovation, effective strategic leadership and customer service excellence.
It has 23 dealerships representing nine manufacturers plus an accident repair centre as well as five Motor Match sites. They stretch from the Midlands to the north of England.
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Senior managers were at the workplaces during most of the lockdowns and extremely active while sticking to all the health and safety requirements, in line with the directors’ belief that senior staff being hands-on was vital for success.
Group chairman Michael Smyth, who was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 Car Dealer Used Car Awards, said: ‘In my 54 years in the motor trade, I have had many obstacles to overcome.
‘At the beginning of the pandemic I got my senior people together and reminded them of the basics of retailing, with a particular focus on the speed at which we kept in touch with all potential customers and to treat all leads as “gold dust”.
‘I firmly believe the team took this on board, and I would like to congratulate them on a job well done.’
Looking ahead, the company said it was optimistic about revenue and profit levels following the lifting of the 2021 lockdown.