However, against that background, and retail customers particularly deferring purchases, the Group's new car sales increased 6% year-on-year to 25,527 (1998: 24,183) due entirely to a 14% rise in fleet sales as retail business was down 3%. The fleet sales rise was further boosted by a 7% rise on margins which were 5% down in the retail sector. Used car sales increased to more than 23,000 units (1998: 22,980) with profit margins up 7% boosted by the ability to buy in volume due to manufacturing excess capacity.
Elsewhere in the company new van sales increased 22% last year to 7,152 (1998: 5,869). Profits in the leasing and rental division increased 26% year-on-year as net profit margins on sales rose 12% but, despite, the rise, Bramall said the widely reported drop in residual values had impacted on the figures.