Aston Barclay’s new owners plan to double sales over the next five years to 160,000 vehicles per year by increasing its fleet business and digitising the customer buying experience.
Neil Hodson, former Manheim, HPI and Experian executive, led a management buyout of the auction group at the beginning of June after securing a multi-million pound investment from Rutland Partners.
Fleet business has been key to the group’s success and Hodson, now CEO of Aston Barclay, told Fleet News he has big plans to extend his relationships with fleet and leasing companies as the business grows.
His vision for growth is based on investment in people, site infrastructure and digital technology. He says Aston Barclay’s digital strategy will be at the heart of every auction centre.
“Where we add value to fleet customers is connecting up the buyers in the digital world and reducing days to sell,” said Hodson.
“If we can help them inspect and photograph a car at the point of return we have the opportunity to take that data and those images and bring them into our real estate. We can technically be presenting cars that will be available to buy much quicker.”
Hodson believes Aston Barclay can do a lot more to support fleets.
He said: “With fleet customers today it’s about presenting the cars to the right buyers. If we can present that in a digital platform then we are creating more opportunity for that car to sell much quicker.”
The business has already approached a number of its fleet clients about helping them with inspections, collections and imagery.
“If they use our platform and our data at the end of contract and give it to us early, the mobile platform can offer all the fleet vehicles coming soon. The buyer can declare an interest, put in a pre-bid or even pre-purchase the vehicle,” Hodson explained.
He told Fleet News it can take between 15 and 35 days from first notification of a car coming back to it being physically sold.
“We think we can take chunks of that out,” said Hodson.
He has already presented the concept to one of the company’s major fleet customers, offering a de-fleet inspection service using an app which is linked to Aston Barclay’s inventory. The car details can then be made available to buyers at the click of a button.
“Why not let the buyers view that car?” said Hodson. “I think we’ve got a big role to play in helping them understand how they can leverage our digital strategy.”
The company’s first Buyer App is currently waiting for sign off in the App Store, which Hodson says will provide a real point of differentiation when it launches over the next few weeks.
He explained: “Buyers search for stock all the time. If they have a smartphone in their pocket they can connect to stock wherever they are.
“It’s really important that we explain a lot more about our stock and how it matches our buyer’s profiles.
“In this world no one has really connected the buyer and the vendor together before. We just want to make the journey much easier for them by going into the digital world.”
Further investment by the group has been made in a new facility at Donington which will become the group’s biggest site when it opens later this year.
Two glazed auction lanes will offer dealer, fleet and OEM sales with storage for 400 vehicles under cover. It also provides space to further grow its light commercial sales proposition.
Currently, the 12-acre site in Chelmsford, which sells 34,000 vehicles annually, is the largest in the Aston Barclay Group. Hodson wants to increase the number of vans sold at this site, too.
Next year the group plans to expand its Prees Heath site following the acquisition of a further 6.5 acres of land next to the current plot.
Former owners Glenn and David Scarborough, whose father founded Aston Barclay in 1984, have remained within the business as non-executive directors and investors.