Admiral's subsidiary Bell Direct has helped it to buck the cycle and increase its motor rates over the past six months while retaining volume and profitability, analysts have said.

Bell, which was relaunched earlier this year, is targeted explicitly at drivers without a no-claims bonus history (NCB), including young drivers, named drivers on a spouse's policy and previous company car drivers.

The insurance group has raised its motor rates by 2.9% in the first half of 2005, while many of its competitors have either slashed or kept theirs at the same level.

According to a report by Merrill Lynch, Admiral has seen volume growth of 5% in the first half of 2005 and is on target for its 10% full year forecast.

The analysts also predicted that Admiral's motor rates would continue to rise in the second half of 2005.

An Admiral spokesman said: "Underwriters put too much stock in NCB as a risk indicator and are therefore over-quoting for profitable business.

"Our proven underwriting software has enabled us to capitalise on this incongruity while retaining underwriting discipline."