SCOTTISH business leader Brian Gilda has warned a no-deal Brexit will spell disaster for the UK car industry, as he declared that weak consumer confidence sparked by political upheaval has dented profits at his Peoples Ford business.

But the firm’s performance over the year to July 31 was hailed by Mr Gilda, who said Peoples had overcome “fierce competition and diminishing volumes in certain sections of the market” to report record turnover.

New accounts for Peoples, which is the largest independent dealership selling only Ford cars and commercial vehicles in Europe, show an 18 per cent fall in pre-tax profits to £4.3 million.

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However the firm, which Mr Gilda established 36 years ago, lifted turnover to £277.4m, up from £274.4m the year before. Staff numbers were maintained at around 400 people.

Peoples trades from six depots, three in Scotland in Edinburgh, Falkirk and Livingston, and three in the Liverpool area.

Mr Gilda told The Herald he was satisfied with the performance, despite the fall in profits which partly reflected an increase in costs passed on by manufacturers.

And he highlighted his confidence for the longer term, expressing the view that continuing consolidation in the car market, driven by an over-provision of dealerships and the expectation that electric vehicles will increasingly be sold online, will reduce the number of players over the next two years.

But Mr Gilda said the car market is dealing with the effects of fragile consumer confidence.

Many consumers are choosing to defer purchases in light of the current political uncertainty, he said, with the “top end of the market… a bit sluggish.”

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Noting uncertainty will persist even if the UK leaves the EU with a deal on October 31, because it will take to establish a new tariff regime, Mr Gilda said: “People are nervous in one regard [about how Brexit will affect them], and on the other front the reason the market is only down by about 4% is they are still interested in getting a good deal on a car.

“And I think that will continue for a while.”

But, with time running out for the UK to agree an exit deal with the EU by October 31, Mr Gilda underlined his fear that a no-deal Brexit would spell “Armageddon” for the car industry.

The prospect of supply chain disruption, and an end to tariff-free access to the single market, has already led several major manufacturers to cast doubt on their long-term commitment to the UK.

Mr Gilda, who chairs the Ford Europe Product Panel, said: “Only the most resilient will get through the pain barrier that’s coming over the next couple of years if we exit Europe without a deal and the Government will be responsible for the Armageddon that follows.

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“The current disarray and hysterical rhetoric afflicting politics is bad for business and bad for industry in many respects, not least because it is undermining public confidence.

“Whatever happens in the next few weeks, whichever group is in government must get a fix on Brexit and an agreement which doesn’t impose unacceptable tariffs and cross-border trading constraints. Otherwise, there’s going to be a real shakedown in the industry.”

But Mr Gilda added: “I’ll be quite honest, if Boris [Johnson] manages to get a deal which accommodates Northern Ireland, and the EU go for it, then I will be the first one to say well done, because nobody else has come up with anything. Although I do think, as they say in the streets of Maryhill, he’s going to get a dull one when he puts it into his final proposition to the EU masters.”

Asked if be believes the Westminster Parliament will be successful in seeing off a no-deal Brexit, he said: “If they have any gumption at all to see off that part of it, then they have to have some form of confidence motion, and as a consequence of that, have some form of government of unity. That’s almost counter-logical, when you look at the political parties right now. But if they started to look at the best interests of the country, and the economy, jobs, welfare and its people, then it is probably crying out for that. And then [should] have a good go at reinventing the deal with Europe. Will that happen, I don’t know.”

Mr Gilda is a former backer of the Labour Party in Scotland, having supported Johann Lamont’s leadership bid in 2011. But he no longer supports any particular party.  “I chose not to get involved in any politics now,” Mr Gilda said.