SHARES in acquisitive Vertu Motors, parent of Scottish chain Macklin Motors, have soared as its eight Scottish dealerships outdid those south of the Border in driving a 68% rise in first half profit growth.

Vertu, which saw its share price rise 10.3% yesterday, is also piloting Sunday closing at its Scottish outlets, in a move chief executive Robert Forrester said was aimed at improving employees' work-life balance.

Vertu, which has eight dealerships operating from six location in Scotland, posted a 33.3% year-on-year rise in turnover to £837.2 million for the six months to August 31. Profits before tax rose from £5.1m to £8.6m

Mr Forrester said: "Scotland is performing very well for us.

"Our Scottish dealerships are outperforming our English ones."

The company posted a 19.6% rise in like-for-like new retail volumes during the period, with a 28% increase in September.

Mr Forrester said that UK sales were being boosted by manufacturers shipping over stock from struggling continental markets.

He said that with new car sales growing and used car prices stabilising or rising "enhanced industry profitability is the almost inevitable result".

Vertu's results, he said, were down to both a strong car market and the "growing maturity" of the company, which was formed in late 2006 to acquire and consolidate UK motor retail businesses.

"The group has made the most of the market opportunity with good performances in the core business and the turnaround of new dealerships progressing well," he added.

With the £31m acquisition of three Land Rover dealerships in Yorkshire boosting earnings and with strong trading continuing through September, the company is bullish about its prospects.

"The board anticipates the full year results to be significantly ahead of market expectations," Mr Forrester said.

Macklin Motors operates from sites in Hamilton, Glasgow, Dunfermline and Paisley but could expand further after Vertu conducted a £50m fundraising earlier this year.

After entering the Scottish market in 2010, Mr Forrester said he expected to expand its Scottish presence in the coming six months but would remain focused on the Central Belt.

He is also piloting Sunday closing in its Scottish dealerships.

"We think it makes for a better work-life balance for our team," he said.

The company will analyse the impact on productivity and sales in the Monday to Saturday period, before rolling out the approach to other dealerships.

"The early signs are positive," he said.

The motor industry was hit hard in the recession that started in 2008 despite Government backing through a car scrappage scheme that subsidised the cost of buying a new vehicle.

But September saw the UK new car retail market record its nineteenth consecutive month of growth.

This has had a knock-on to the much larger used car market, Vertu said, which is seeing growing demand as consumers recover from the downturn.

Vertu, which has 99 outlets in 80 locations, can trace its roots back to a single Ford dealership, Bristol Street Motors, located in central Birmingham

Broker Liberum yesterday initiated its coverage of Vertu with a "buy" rating and a target price of 69p.

Shares in Alternative Investment Market-listed Vertu closed up 5.625p at 60p.

Its investors include Scottish funds houses Artemis Investment Management and Standard Life Investments.