But the mechanical workings of an auction often remain something of a mystery to fleet managers who may not have the opportunity to attend them in person.
The auction process involves several departments including transport, preparation, vendor and buyer management and auctioneering. Adele Burton takes a look at some of the key people involved at the British Car Auctions’ (BCA) Blackbushe site to reveal how they go about making the remarketing process run as smoothly as possible.
The auctioneer: Graham Sims
As operations manager at the Blackbushe site, Sims is responsible for about 100,000 vehicles which pass through the centre on an annual basis. He explains his role and how it affects fleets: ‘The most obvious impact I have on fleet operators is selling their cars from the rostrum.
To do it successfully you need market knowledge and the ability to convey your enthusiasm for the vehicle in front of you to the buyers in the auction hall. When it is the 20th example of saloon A or hatchback B you have offered in the last hour the skill is in making the buyers believe this is the best car they have seen all day.
Every car has its selling point and it is my job to find it and extol those virtues in the 45 to 60 seconds it is before the rostrum.
It might not be the prettiest or best specified car, but perhaps it had just one owner from new. It might be high mileage but well specified. It could be a base model but very low mileage.
It is disappointing where a vehicle has failed to realise its potential because of something avoidable, like the service history being missing, or the V5 document.
Perhaps the car was dirty and in need of a pre-sale valet. These can damage the saleability of the asset and reduces opportunities we have to sell it for the best price. If I could ask fleet managers to grant me one wish, I would ask for their commitment to selling the product to be as great as ours. Some sellers are paragons of virtue in this respect, others less so.
Sims believes fleets can maximise the re-sale price of vehicles by completing three simple measures:
The vehicle preparer: Darren Arnold
Arnold is the operations co-ordinator at BCA for the Smart Prepared service. He works with a team of supervisors and is responsible for ensuring that vehicles are prepared for sale and that the standard of smart repairs is maintained. The benefits of the full smart package give sellers the opportunity to offer their cars in ready-to-retail condition. In a competitive marketplace, anything that gives your cars the edge at remarketing time must be considered valuable.
A Smart Prepared car or van stands out when in the viewing area. The saleability is improved considerably as is the opportunity for first-time sale conversion.
A vendor using BCA’s Smart Prepared pre-sale preparation services will attract significantly stronger bidding for their vehicles. Whatever the marketplace conditions, buyers will be drawn to the best examples.
There is a noticeable and appreciable improvement in sales performance when vehicles are presented in ‘oven ready’ condition for the professional to take away and retail without delay. There is also an excellent return for the vendor in retained residual value against the cost of preparation. Currently we see a return that comfortably exceeds outlay often showing a 100% return on investment.
We also use third-party suppliers to BCA Smart Prepared process, Dent Wizard and Flying Colours, to carry out a range of cosmetic repairs that can deliver a benefit for the seller.
When professional buyers see damage on a car, they mentally calculate the cost to put it right and adjust their bidding accordingly. Non-trade buyers are often put off completely. We can repair the damage that means the vehicle will have every chance to sell.
The transport controller: Angela Paine
Paine is responsible for controlling the vehicle movements in and out of the auction centre.
BCA has a number of vehicle transporters which are on permanent call to Blackbushe working in conjunction with plate drivers.
Paine said: ‘ Collection is one of the most time-saving services we can offer a fleet manager. It means a vehicle can come out of service at any location and we can upload it and deliver it to the appropriate BCA centre for sale. It is one less thing for the fleet manager to worry about and we can deliver this service at a lower cost thanks to our buying power.
Much of our activity in the transport department is driven by the needs of the corporate fleet sector and we work closely with the BCA account managers to arrange collections from any location.
All the relevant information is logged on to BCA’s Corporate Auction System and once collections are scheduled they are immediately allocated to a specific haulier. Incoming deliveries are tracked on our system so we know exactly what is arriving, from where and when. On arrival, we get the proof of delivery form from the haulier, check the details and then the vehicles are entered into our care and control, ready to be processed for sale.’
The sales office supervisor: Nicola Cornwell
Cornwell supervises the department that oversees a number of key accounts at Blackbushe, including Lex Vehicle Leasing, LeasePlan, Hitachi, Peugeot, Citroen and Renault Financial Services.
She said: ‘ In the sales office, we look after a number of high- volume, high-profile customers, ensuring every aspect of their sales programme is running smoothly. We use electronic links to communicate directly with these customers, downloading details on vehicles allocated to Blackbushe and then organising collection, pre-sale preparation, cataloguing and documentation.
We send pre-sale reports to the customer including all the data we hold on every vehicle in the next sale. We offer advice on setting reserves and can provide price trend data.
As the sale is lined up ready to go, we check the entry against the catalogue and chase any missing paperwork. We also check pre-sale preparation is done to a suitable standard.
The sales team highlights any changes to the running order or reserves in the documentation we give to the vendor’s representative because he or she will be on the rostrum making decisions on provisional bids.
Post-sale, we assist in converting any outstanding provisionals and produce the post-sale reports which will analyse the sale against the appropriate criteria including reserve, stand-in-value or guide price. Any unsold vehicles are allocated to the next sale.
The buyer account manager: Chris Minton
Minton works closely with the account managers who dispose fleets and is responsible for ensuring buyers are fully aware of up coming sales. BCA has one of the most comprehensive customer databases in the UK and we are currently in the process of introducing a marketing system allowing us to reach every prospective customer at the right time through the most appropriate channel.
The days of marketing fleet vehicles by simply putting a catalogue in the post are behind us and we draw on a much more sophisticated armoury.
BCA has a vast array of marketing initiatives at its disposal and my role is to ensure we use them strategically to produce the results our customers expect whatever the market conditions.
Strategic marketing generates good buyer awareness and a strong attendance on the day. The more buyers competing for the fleet operators’ stock, the better the residual value performance and higher the conversion rate.
I work closely with vendor account managers to promote the corporate sales programme, ensuring buyers know there is a weekly Motability sale at Black-bushe, for example. I also get heavily involved in the special sales programmes, themed and branded events or specific product sales of convertibles or prestige cars.
It is my job to ensure we continue to keep our buyers informed. Increasingly we are using online methods and SMS messaging.
E-marketing allows us to help customers to view online catalogues via live links to the BCA website.
These methods are just part of an overall marketing strategy that includes tele-marketing through our call-centre, on-page advertising, public relations and promotions, all designed to keep all of our customers informed, all of the time.