Motorists using satellite technology to beat jams on UK roads have been credited with driving up sales and profits of navigation specialist Trafficmaster.
Shares in Trafficmaster rocketed 15 per cent after the group said car manufacturers were now installing three times as many units of its Smartnav navigation technology as a year earlier.
With sales of Smartnav trebling to 27,600 units in the year to December 31, pretax profits also advanced to £4.8 million from £549,000 a year earlier. The figure was also bouyed by exceptionals as a result of an early redemption of bonds.
Turnover was up around 19 per cent to £37.3 million from £31.2 million in 2003. Operating profit from continuing operations advanced 18 per cent to £20.8 million from £17.6 million.
Smartnav helps motorists plan routes using spoken voice instructions and more recently by touching a screen fitted on to the dashboard - a development which Trafficmaster described as a significant factor in its sales growth.
Information is gathered via a network of more than 7,500 sensors fitted to motorway bridges and poles by the roadside. This data is then collated and updated every three minutes for an accurate picture of traffic flow.
A total of 11 vehicle models now offer Smartnav and company bosses believe it accounts for more than 20 per cent of all new units sold in the UK from a standing start 18 months earlier.
In December, Trafficmaster announced its largest ever standard-fit deal to supply Smartnav to MG Rover. The unit was fitted to Rover 75 and MG ZT models from mid-January this year.
Chief executive Stuart Berman highlighted both Rover and Jaguar as key clients and said Trafficmaster was keen to increase the number of basic-fit contracts that it held over 2005.
The battle for market share of navigation systems has intensified over the past year as rival companies offer technology via hand-held and personal digital assistant (PDA) units.
However, Mr Berman was confident that the continuous upgrade of Smartnav would secure its continued success over the year ahead.
He said: "We are updating and improving our system and services remotely every ten to 12 weeks. For example, we can now find routes to avoid the M6 Toll or congestion charge areas in London ."
Trafficmaster has also spent the past six months working with Norwich Union on the feasibility of a "Pay As You Drive" insurance service, which could cut premiums for drivers that clock up a low mileage each week.
And a recent deal with Transport for London means data will be shared to improve traffic flow and prevent gridlock in the capital.
The Bedfordshire-based company employs 300 staff in the UK and has 150 employees in the United States where its Teletrac fleet management business grew revenues by 14.2 per cent, taking into account the effect of exchange rates, during 2004.
Its other UK divisions include RAC Trackstar which can follow stolen vehicles, with sales of its Trackstar Plus product rising 35 per cent year-on-year.
Shares in Trafficmaster were up 13p at 63.5p.