The Irish motor retail group owned by the Maughan family paid €9.5 million to take over Opel distribution in the Republic in October 2019.
According to accounts filed by Convest Limited, the multi-franchise conglomerate that also has Irish and UK distribution rights to consumer brands such as KitchenAid and Shark vacuum cleaners, saw operating profits more than quadruple to €5 million in 2019, from €1.1 million the previous year.
Turnover rose by €13 million to €237.7 million in 2019, with €6.1 million of this attributed to its UK consumer brands business. In the three months it operated the Opel franchise in the Republic, the car brand contributed €8.7 million in turnover and incurred an operating loss of €1.3 million for the group.
Figures for 2020 are not available yet but Michael Dwan, managing director of the company's Gowan Motor Group, said it wasn't all bad.
“Like a lot of businesses we really struggled in the second quarter of last year, but bounced back – and surprisingly so – when the restrictions were eased.”
Through its KAL division, the group holds UK and Irish franchises for household appliance brands such as De Dietrich, Nilfisk, Franke, Shark, Sharp, Elica and KitchenAid. It also owns the Nordmende brand.
“The home appliance division is performing phenomenally well,” said Mr Dwan. “We had a record year for it last year. That augurs well for when the restrictions are eased, as I think there is a huge pent-up demand in terms of consumer spending, particularly for higher-ticket items.”
The group also owns Senator Windows, and Mr Dwan said its order book was very strong, though the manufacturing plant in Wexford had to close for periods due to the Covid restrictions. "We see huge buoyancy in the retrofit market, and I think 2021 will be a strong year."
Convest, through its Gowan Motor Group subsidiaries, holds the Irish franchise for vehicles from Peugeot, Opel and Honda cars.
From April 1st it will also take control of Citroën’s Irish operations, having already secured Irish rights for the French car maker’s sub-brand, DS, last year.
This will give the Maughan family group 10 per cent share of the new car market across all its brands and a 29.5 per cent share of the van market.
Citroën is part of Stellantis, formerly PSA, which manufactures Peugeot, Citroën, Opel, DS, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Jeep vehicles, among others.
Convest, through a subsidiary, previously distributed Citroën cars in Ireland from 1982, but lost that franchise in 2009. With Citroën's return, it means that of the Stellantis car brands, just Fiat and its sub-brands remain outside the control of Gowan Group in Ireland.
The directors' report notes that the group's Opel business has been named as a party in a legal claim by the owners of the Douglas Village Shopping Centre in Cork, who are suing over a car that went on fire in the centre in 2019, causing more than €30 million worth of damage. It is believed the Convest has indemnity from Stellantis in relation to this case.
Accumulated profits for the group were €73.3 million at the end of the year. The company employed 266 staff at the end of 2019, with payroll costs of €14.6 million.