Twelve of the 13 retailers in the Shareholder Value Index showed positive returns in the first quarter.
The acquisition of high-volume franchised dealer Quicks Group by rival CD Bramall, and the purchase of Sytner Group by United Auto Group of the USA, highlighted the industry's continued consolidation.
Retailers are growing to take advantage of opportunities offered by planned reform of European car-distribution rules. The Quicks acquisition makes Bramall No. 3 among UK dealership groups, after Pendragon and Reg Vardy. The purchase, which values Quicks at £40.2 million (E64.7 million), creates the UK's largest Ford dealer group.
* Sytner leads the league with a 61.7 percent shareholder return in the first quarter, and a 157 percent return over the last 12 months.
United Auto Group acquired the prestige-brand dealer group in March. UAG spent $155 million (E176 million) in total on Sytner, which operates 48 franchises. Sytner focuses mainly on BMW, but also sells the Audi, Porsche, Lexus, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus and Land Rover brands.
'Sytner attracted a very high valuation due to its presence in the luxury/premium sector that has traditionally benefited from higher margins,' said Philip Wylie, head of the automotive team at PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate Finance. (Sytner will be removed from the index in the next quarter.)
* Pendragon was second with a 54.4 percent shareholder return in the first quarter. The largest UK dealership group announced that strong new-car sales and improved used-car prices helped its 2001 profits rise above analysts' expectations.
The increase in revenue and operating profit - margins rose from 2.2 percent to 3 percent compared with an industry average of 2 percent - was due to low UK interest rates, lower vehicle prices and better used-car values.
Revenue also increased at Pendragon's California division to £102.2 million from £24.5 million on strong Land Rover sales.
Pendragon is now focused on a core base of BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes and Jaguar.
* Stern Groep was the worst performer in the first quarter with a 0.9 percent loss in shareholder value.
It also posted the worst results in stock values over one year and three years.
Stern's sales fell to E392 million in 2001 from E401 million in 2000. It hopes to reverse the fall in sales after acquiring in January the dealership division of Athlon Groep. (Stern Groep has replaced Athlon in the Shareholder Value Index and its results are included in the one-year and three-year tables.)