Scottish motor trade heavyweight Brian Gilda has said he is in advanced talks with Chinese car makers who could support expansion moves in Scotland after the Peoples Group which he leads achieved record sales despite fears the cost-of-living crisis would hit the sector.

“We’re talking to two manufacturers in particular and are well down the line,” said Mr Gilda who said the talks could result in the business opening at least one new dealership in Scotland next year.

Peoples has six Ford dealerships, including three in central Scotland and three in Liverpool.

The Falkirk-based group has represented Ford for the 40 years it has been in business. Mr Gilda founded it in 1983.

Mr Gilda said the talks with Chinese firms are part of a drive to ensure the group’s franchised dealer network is aligned with its view of the future direction of the UK market.

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He declined to give details of the talks citing commercial confidentiality.

“We are entering a period of change in the coming years as the model lineup becomes increasingly more electric,” said Mr Gilda.

He reckons the shift to electric vehicles from internal combustion engine (ICE) powered models will be completed over the next decade or so but will not happen as quickly as some expect.

Take up of electric vehicles in the UK has probably been delayed by the UK Government’s decision to delay the ban on new ICE vehicle sales to 2035, from 2030.

Some people may be deterred from buying electric vehicles by cost factors and concerns about the availability of charging infrastructure. However, there could be advances on all these fronts within two years or so.

Peoples sells Ford's Mustang Mache-E electric vehicle.

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The group grew sales by 11% in the year to July 31, to £306.8 million, from £275.6m in preceding year.

The growth was achieved despite fears consumers might cut spending on cars following the surge in inflation and resulting increases in interest rates. These left consumers facing increases in borrowing costs and in the prices of fuel and food.

Peoples saw sales of new cars increase by 21% annually in the latest year while used car sales rose 11%.

Mr Gilda noted that semiconductor shortages that forced manufacturers to limit production volumes in recent years appear to have ended.

However, a 17% fall in commercial vehicle sales reflected an industry-wide shortage. Mr Gilda noted that Ford limited the number of the market-leading Transit vans it supplied to the UK to help meet booming demand in Europe.

Peoples posted a 31% increase in aftersales profits, which Mr Gilda said may have been down partly to some people deciding to keep cars that they are happy with longer than they had done in the past.

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The company posted a pre-tax profit of £7.67m, down slightly from a record £8.48m last time.

However, Mr Gilda said the 2.5% return achieved on sales represented an excellent performance set against the average for the industry of 1% to 1.25%.

The privately-owned group paid £2.4m total dividends in the latest year, up from £2.2m.

Mr Gilda said the group has reaped the benefit of initiatives launched by the new operating board it introduced in 2022. The board is led by his daughter Nicola Gilda.

The company highlighted investment in game-changing business analytics technology. This allowed Peoples to make more data-driven decisions based on real-time insights from across every department.

Mr Gilda said the expected expansion could result in Peoples increasing employee numbers by around 10%. The average monthly number of employees fell to 356 in the latest year, from 363.

He said the group is “trying very hard to have more female employees” amid changes in the expectations of customers, following an age in which showrooms were dominated by car salesmen delivering sales pitches.