Fleet News

New boss aims to build on BCA's recent growth

BCA'S new chief executive has announced growth plans for the company, both in the UK and Europe.

Jon Olsen took over the chief executive's position from well-known industry figure Tom Gibson, who stepped down from his role in May.

Olsen was previously managing director, mainland Europe, and is a former group finance director.

Gibson's move came after nearly 20 years with BCA and 49 years in the UK automotive industry, in a career spanning Ford main dealerships, rental and leasing. He will remain as a director of the group parent company BCA Holdings.

Since Gibson joined BCA in 1984, it has grown from 14 auction centres in the UK to 37, with pan-European coverage. It is one of the biggest privately-owned companies in the country, with 2,000 employees, a £2.8 billion turnover and 37 sales locations throughout Europe.

Quite an act to follow, and one of Olsen's main priorities is to ensure the continued success of BCA, as well as plotting further growth.

Speaking in the Blackbushe-based company's boardroom, which is home to many of the company's 17 Fleet News Awards, Olsen said: 'My focus is to continue the company's success so far – it will be evolution rather than revolution. I will be looking at all our markets as there is more we can do in the UK and also in the rest of Europe.

'There will be new locations in the UK – we are actively looking for another two centres. The UK is not a closed shop for future growth. There has been huge progress over recent years with a growth in volume. We have the right team and we are redeveloping our network.'

Across Europe, BCA currently operates in 10 countries – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

The company is currently developing an auction centre in central Germany, the fourth in the country. A new site in Seville will open in 2004, while another in Barcelona is also planned.

Olsen said: 'The requirements for customers in the business of remarketing used cars are set to grow across Europe and this company has the facilities, experience and technological expertise to meet those needs.

'These are exciting times ahead as we have plans on the drawing board to develop and expand our pan-European network at a number of locations and bring a range of sophisticated technology-based services to the marketplace.'

Commenting on market conditions experienced in the UK this year, Olsen said: 'We've had a good year and conversions are high. We would have preferred a few more cars going through the auction but then a shortage means higher prices are achieved.

'Fleets will have achieved higher prices this year than they were expecting. People have to take advantage of the current market conditions. Now is the time to get vehicles through the system. Fleets should not hold on to any stock.'

Tom Madden, BCA director, customer affairs, added: 'We can only reflect on the market. We can help our customers to take advantage of the market but we cannot influence it.'

Earlier this year, BCA's Used Car Market Report, produced in association with Fleet News' sister-company Sewells, attempted to allay fears that the used market for fleet diesel vehicles could collapse, with huge numbers reaching the market in a couple of years and nobody to buy them.

The report found that acceptance of diesel in the used market is on the increase and in fact mirrors strong sales in the new car sector.

About 19% of motorists in this year's survey had bought a diesel-engined car in the past two years, equivalent to 1.25 million units.

The report suggested that the figure was likely to rise further, with 20% of respondents saying they would buy a used diesel.

Three-quarters cited better fuel consumption as a reason for buying, while just under half claimed 'the engine lasts longer' and a third reckoned diesel engines were more reliable. Only 13% chose diesel for environmental reasons.

Giving his view on the future for diesel, Olsen said: 'The acceptance of diesel engines in the UK today is huge. There are a number of European countries weighted towards diesel and I think a retail customer in the UK still wants an economical car and will do so in the future, especially as today's diesel engines are excellent.'

Olsen said the company uses technology to enhance its offering to customers but stressed that the physical auction was core to its business.

'We create a marketplace,' he said. 'People who come to our auctions get a feel for the market by doing so, they can look at the cars they are buying and also see what the competition is doing. Technology is a wonderful thing but you can't replicate the physical auction.'

Modern technology used by the company includes its Live On Line service, which uses web browser technology to deliver live video and real-time audio to remote bidders, allowing them to compete with buyers in the auction halls.

Its BCA Direct e-business service enables retail motor dealers to buy vehicles online from a number of sources, including manufacturers, contract hire and rental companies and fleet operators.

As reported on Fleet NewsNet last week, BCA also says its Auction View Fixed Price remarketing channel has offered hundreds of vehicles to professional buyers over the internet since its launch four months ago (Fleet NewsNet October 16).

The company uses additional technology to ensure customers are kept up to date in the form of SMS messaging, online sales guides, email marketing and call centres. BCA also provides its Smart Prepared service, which it says 'offers cars in a premium condition for professional buyers to bid on and take away'.

The aim is to provide dealers with forecourt-ready cars but only a quarter of customers currently opt to use the service.

'We monitor the performance of Smart Prepared closely,' Olsen said. 'It's an economic argument why many fleets don't do it but they will get their money back and more. In the US, it is an integral part of the business.'

Madden added: 'It's making a car look like new. At three years old, cars do have bits missing and things that require attention.'

Olsen concluded: 'We are a remarketing company and not just an auction company. We use our knowledge and expertise before the vehicle goes to auction to ensure it achieves its best price.'

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