The BCA fleet is intriguing. Unlike regular fleets made up of brand new vehicles, BCA’s comprises used vehicles, sourced mainly through auction.
A logical step perhaps, but not one that all car auction houses take.
In charge of it is Marie Jarrold, who was named fleet manager of the year for medium-sized fleets in the 2008 Fleet News Awards.
“The BCA scheme is unique,” says Marie.
“It’s an employee car ownership scheme that’s
run in-house. The company provides the finance to drivers and we purchase the cars from auction.”
Marie isn’t personally responsible for procuring the cars – that job goes to Nigel Everett, based at BCA’s Belle Vue auction centre in Manchester – but she manages the contracts and is frequently on the phone to Nigel, discussing disposals and acquisitions.
But isn’t the biggest stumbling block convincing drivers they haven’t got the raw end of the deal by having a used car?
“I’ve never had a problem,” Marie replies.
“We offer a good package.
"The cars are like new – we put them through our smart prepared service and they’re less than a year old or have 15,000 driven miles. All we’ve done is taken off depreciation.”
Has she ever had any problems sourcing a vehicle?
“It’s very rare. If we struggle to source one at auction we may buy direct or purchase a specific specification vehicle from a dealership. But that’s minimal – about 2%.”
Marie says that if she receives any unusual requests she can usually dissuade people.
“I do get the odd request for a car where I say ‘come on now, be reasonable.
"You’re on the road all the time, you need something economical’. I usually talk them round by pointing out that it’s going to cost them a fortune.
“But a lot of people love a specific model and they say ‘I’ll have another one of those please’.”
The BCA scheme is an efficient way of buying and selling vehicles, according to Marie.
And she suggests a similar scheme could be advantageous for small fleets.
“Price is a big advantage, especially for a smaller fleet that wouldn’t necessarily get the volume discount elsewhere.
"They can put themselves in a similar price position as larger fleets.”
BCA also has the benefit of adopting the remainder of a manufacturer’s own warranty as the cars are usually only a few months to a year old.
If another fleet manager wanted to
source from auction what issues would they face?
“In theory, anyone can bid at auction. But buying used vehicles isn’t easy – there’s a skill to it.
"It’s the one part of our fleet that I sub-contract to someone with experience in our organisation.
“You should really have the knowledge and you’ll need to look at the financial benefits and assess those.
"Be prepared to miss out on a vehicle. There may be five or six other people bidding on it.”
And what are the issues for drivers?
“They can buy the car at the end of contract or they can hand it back and we sell it at auction, with the proceeds going towards their next car.
"There’s no penalty as long as it doesn’t come back with thousands of pounds of damage,” she says.
“All our people respect that. I’ve never had a car that’s been a wreck.
"And our branch managers make sure everyone is looking after their cars.”
In fact, having support from colleagues, especially company drivers, is one of Marie’s tips for running a successful fleet.
Cost control is also key. Marie negotiated a rebate with a tyre manufacturer and says fleet managers should regularly review services.
“Don’t stand still – keep going forward and reassessing,” she advises.
“I review at least annually. And if there’s a supplier I’m not happy with, I don’t mess around hoping it will get better.”
She has her finger on the pulse when it comes to the drivers too.
“If someone wants to rent a vehicle I say ‘justify your journey – where are you going, what are you doing, are there alternatives to rental?’”
With around 500 company fuel cards in use, Marie says control is paramount.
She puts out notifications on fuel spend and advises on the cheapest places to fill up.
Apart from fuel prices, Marie thinks the big challenge for fleet managers is the drive towards lower-emission vehicles.
“You’ve got to plan long-term and make sure your costings are there. I’ll be looking at what cars we’ve got and reviewing banding levels. We’ve got to bring them below 160g/km of CO2.”
The company has decided to unertake a green fleet review with the Energy Saving Trust to measure its carbon footprint and look at ways of reducing it.
Aside from that, Marie’s focus will be on her Institue of Car Fleet Management (ICFM) diploma.
“I’m very much a supporter of the ICFM training.
"It’s a learning tool and you find out a lot from networking.
"You pick up ideas and decide what to carry forward to your fleet. You have to be dedicated to do the training.”
MARIE JARROLD CV
Marie has been at BCA for 14 years. She started in customer service, managing fleet accounts.
Four years ago she became car fleet controller and moved to the finance department.
She is responsible for a fleet of around 400 vehicles, including fire engines and a JCB digger.
Marie says having specialist vehicles on the fleet can be ‘very interesting at times’, especially when sourcing tyres.
She believes the fleet role takes patience, tenacity and is not for the faint-hearted.