THE new owner of North Yorkshire motor dealership CD Bramall has seen its profits rise by nearly a quarter.

Pendragon, which last month announced the £230m deal for CD Bramall, said continuing strong demand for new and used cars helped it boost annual pre-tax profits by 24 per cent to £44.3m.

The group, based in Nottingham, said robust consumer confidence and the relatively low cost of finance had kept the UK market buoyant in the year to December 31.

Pendragon, the UK's biggest car dealership group, said new car registrations rose 0.6 per cent to almost 2.6 million from last year's record.

The increase was led by brands including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Porsche and Vauxhall - although registrations for cars made by Ford, Rover and Volvo were slightly down.

The company's US business saw registrations in the first half of the year fall by 2.5 per cent against 2002, although sales recovered in the second half and were one per cent down by December.

In Germany, where Pendragon represents Land Rover and Jaguar, weak economic conditions continued, and the national new car market fell by a further 0.5 per cent last year. Land Rover sales rose by 2.9 per cent while Jaguar registrations fell 18.1 per cent.

Pendragon intends to use the CD Bramall deal to increase the size of its sales operation for Ford, Vauxhall, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, as well as to boost its coverage, with more sites in Scotland and the South-West.