Aston Barclay ready to take on the top dogs
04 July 2017
Author: Daniel Puddicombe
The new CEO of remarketing firm Aston Barclay has announced ambitious plans to double the number of vehicles the firm sells in the next five years following a change of ownership.
Last month, Neil Hodson, with private equity group Rutland Partners, led a management buy-out of the business owned by the Scarborough family. Big investments in both people and infrastructure are planned to drive growth, helping the company double sales in the next five years from 80,000 to 160,000 vehicles a year.
That equates to a market share jump from 5% to 10%. At present, the firm caters mainly towards used car buyers - the ratio is 95:5 cars to vans. "We're the underdogs taking on the big corporates," proclaimed Hodson - who has more than 25 years' automotive experience and previously worked for Manheim.
Hodson claimed that buyers have become dissatisfied recently, suggesting that BCA is dropping smaller clients in favour of the largest leasing companies and is also concentrating on its Webuyanycar subsidiary, while he said that Manheim is spreading itself too thinly.
"We want to do more and we're trying to make buying a car as easy as possible," he said, adding: "There is a need for a provider that offers a more personal and flexible service, that, for instance, can collect and sell dealer part-exchanges in just 48 hours, which is a different proposition to that offered by the two market leaders."
One of the ways in which Aston Barclay will expand its operations is with the partial opening of what Hodson called a "supercentre" at Donington Park in Leicestershire by the end of the year. By next September, the full 18-acre site will be up and running, offering dealer, fleet and OEM sales with undercover storage space for 400 vehicles.
Next year will also mark the expansion of the Prees Heath site in Shropshire, with the company developing an additional 6.5 acres, while the Leeds and Westbury, Wiltshire, locations have also been upgraded thanks to a combined £1.25m investment in the past year.
And Hodson hasn't ruled out building more sites in the future. "Rutland brings cash and if customers want it and if the geography allows we can expand geographically in the future," he told BusinessCar. "Donington is a great flagship centre for us and it helps us expand around the country as we now have a nice base for the future."
However, it isn't just physical auctions that Aston's new boss wants to improve, as he has his sights set on growing the firm's online presence, most of which will be done through a new buyer app currently being signed off by app stores, while a vendor app - which will help asset owners stay updated on the progress of sales - is planned, as are new HR, accounts and cloud-based IT systems.
According to Hodson, at present, 35-40% of its stock is sold online and he expects this figure to rise, although he doesn't see the end of physical auctions coming any time soon.
"We have many buyers," he elaborated. "Some want to come in for a cup of tea and to look at and touch the cars they're buying, but opening up our online presence opens up new channels for us."
Central to the company's expansion plans, though, is the creation of more jobs - 75 over the next five years, with 25 of those going to the flagship Donington Park location, including a new buyer services team who will look after the needs of its buyer base, which is expected to quadruple to more than 8,000 clients in the next five years.
"It is the investment in people and new IT and digital systems that is extremely exciting. Our strong team has already been expanded with a host of new talented people who have bought into our vision. The business will remain loyal to the family values adopted by the Scarborough family over the past 30 years and a shallow management structure will ensure we retain our friendly, consultative and personal service for buyers and vendors," Hodson concluded.