JOHN Clark Motor Group, the Aberdeen-based car dealer, has shown confidence in the prospects for the market in the Central Belt by acquiring a business in Stirling.

The group has bought Morrisons of Stirling for an undisclosed sum in what it said was a strategic move.

“This is a hugely positive step for the group as we continue to build on our premium portfolio and further cement our presence in the Central Belt of Scotland,” said John Clark.

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Founded by Archie Morrison in 1927, the Stirling business sells Land Rover, Jaguar and SEAT vehicles.

John Clark has made the move amid challenging conditions in the motor trade, with subdued consumer confidence and pressure on wages resulting from increased inflation weighing on the industry.

But the group noted it grew sales by five per cent in 2016, to £703m from £667m. It added: “Profit before tax was at 1.2 per cent of sales, which remained above the UK motor trade national average, despite what were volatile market conditions.”

David Kendrick of accountants UHY Hacker Young, who advised the former owners of Morrisons, said with a number of large groups operating north of the border it made strategic sense for the shareholders to exit.

Eighty Morrisons employees have joined John Clark, including Andrew Morrison from the family that owned the business. Total group staff numbers have increased by six per cent, to 1,344 from 1,264.

Following the deal, John Clark sells 13 brands of new cars from 33 sites and operate two used vehicle stores.