COACH, bus and car body manufacturer Mayflower Corporation is poised for recovery after enduring its toughest ever year.

The company, which boasts former Prime Minister John Major as a non-executive director, said it had won a host of new business.

Order books in its TransBus division, which includes the Plaxtons plant in Scarborough employing 200 staff, were at record levels whilst Land Rover, Aston Martin and DaimlerChrysler had also placed contracts with the firm.

"Despite current market uncertainties, we anticipate a continuing increase in market share," a spokesman for Mayflower said.

"And with solid order books and the cost cutting programmes already in place, we are confident that the group will continue to prosper."

Final results bore the scars of the downturn last year, with underlying pre-tax profits in 2001 nearly 40 per cent lower at £30.2m.

The group launched a widespread restructuring programme after seeing demand tumble in the US and Europe in light of the economic slowdown.

Costs linked with up to 1,000 job cuts and non-core disposals pushed Mayflower into a bottom-line pre-tax loss of £29.2m.

Turnover increased to £647.3m compared with £592.8m in 2000.

Chief executive John Simpson said business and world events had "conspired to challenge the very core" of the firm in 2001.

He added 2001 had been the "toughest year yet" in the group's twelve year history.

Mayflower's vehicle systems arm suffered as the market for heavy trucks in the US dived with operating profits more than halved to £9.3m.

UK bus and coach registrations at TransBus fell 14 per cent but cost cuts helped lift underlying profits at the arm up £4.7m to £36.2m.

The group's plant in Scarborough was rationalised early in the year with production of its Pointer bus range transferred to Falkirk, leading to 500 job losses.

Mr Simpson said the full benefit of cost reductions would be felt in 2002 and added the group would continue to develop other initiatives.

A new company has been set up to install offshore wind turbines and the group launched an "intelligent" internal combustion engine in October.

The engine is designed to cut fuel consumption and Mayflower said licensing agreements for demonstration prototypes were currently being finalised.

Shareholders will receive a total dividend of 3p, down from 4p last year.