EUROPEAN fleet executives are currently researching what business opportunities may arise from the recent introduction of 10 new countries into the European Union.
Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia became EU Member States at the beginning of last month.
BCA Europe is one company currently studying the new opportunities created by the enlargement, which is the biggest the EU has experienced.
It is one of a number of ongoing research projects being carried out by the company which is constantly seeking to expand its European presence.
Currently, it has 38 European auction centres, more than 2,000 staff and handles more than 1.2 million vehicles every year.
It has sites in the UK and across Europe including Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, France, Norway, Spain and Portugal.
Chief executive Jon Olsen said: 'We are currently doing some research into the new EU countries and how they operate and where we may benefit. We will definitely have a presence there in the future as it will open up opportunities for us, but I can't give a timescale.'
Other plans to expand its presence across Europe include identifying opportunities in Italy, expanding into northern Germany and also in Spain, with the building of a new site in Seville and locating a new site in Barcelona.
It is also keen to set up in the Bordeaux region of France and expand in Holland, where the existing site has reached full capacity.
'We'll either grow this site or develop a second one,' Olsen said.
In the UK, the company is in the process of building a 'supersite' in Bedford, due to open during the third or fourth quarter of next year.
'We are also actively looking at how we can increase our capacity in the Midlands,' Olsen said. 'But our investment plans are not just for locations, but also for business IT platforms.
'By the fourth quarter of next year we should have introduced a common IT platform for the whole of continental Europe, which will assist with our cross-border sales. We are also undergoing a revision of our inventory management system – that is a significant investment.'
Although the physical auction is still core to BCA's business, it is keen the popularity of its Live Online service will grow as the company expands.
The system has been developed in-house by BCA and utilises BCA's Vehicle Information Screens in the auction hall to display online bids, meaning the system is entirely transparent for both buyers in the auction hall and remote bidders via the internet.
'It won't ever replace the physical auction,' Olsen said, 'But on occasions dealers cannot make it to the auction hall. It therefore raises residual values for customers' cars because there are more people bidding on them.'
In March earlier this year, BCA Europe continued the latest in a decade-long run of Fleet News Award wins, this time for Best Disposal /Remarketing Company, sponsored by MG Rover Group.
The award went to the company which combined excellent service levels to fleet customers with the delivery of maximum resale values.
The judges looked for a creative remarketing approach that explored a variety of sale opportunities and helped fleets achieve optimum resale values for their vehicles, while supporting disposal managers with high-quality management information.
The awards ceremony proved a nerve-wracking time for Olsen as it was the first time the company had entered under his leadership. Olsen said: 'We were under a lot of pressure, having won it on numerous occasions beforehand.
'I was certainly under pressure as it was my first awards as chief executive and I was not looking forward to breaking the winning run.'
The judges said: 'Of all the categories judged this year, the strongest presentation came from the disposals industry.
'The standard of entries this year provides a fantastic example of the benefits of effective competition.
'With the constant threat of Manheim's evolving services, BCA Europe hasn't stood still for a minute. It keeps a constant check on service levels and getting ground-breaking new services into action, such as its customer relationship management systems, wireless barcoding, live online sales, hand-held appraisal systems, updated web services, major investment in new sites and a significant investment in professional fleet training for its employees.
'Its dominant position in the market is always under threat, but fleet customers are a great deal better off because of it.'
Twelve months have passed since Olsen took over the chief executive role from well-known industry figure Tom Gibson, who stepped down from the position.
Commenting on his first year at the helm, Olsen said: 'We are on track with where I wanted us to be and I'm pleased with that.'