Two UK-based auction chains -British Car Auctions and Independent Car Auctions - have ambitious expansion plans on the Continent. In fact, BCA, as it is known outside the UK, already operates six auctions there and will open a seventh soon.
Independent, a consortium of three smaller UK auction firms, plans to open several locations next year. It has the formidable financial backing of Manheim Auctions, the giant American chain that now owns half of the Independent group. All Independent auctions will soon be rebranded Manheim.
At their best, auctions can serve as a tool to help move large numbers of used cars extremely efficiently. By attracting lots of bidders, auctions can help manufacturers, dealers, and finance, rental and leasing companies fetch the highest prices for used vehicles.
The auction industry did not establish itself in Europe for a long time because of value-added tax regimes that effectively took away whatever profits a dealer might have earned on a vehicle bought at auction.
That barrier has gone now, and the used-car market in Europe is potentially as large as that of North America, where auctions have been an integral part of a retail revolution. There is no reason why the same thing cannot happen on this side of the Atlantic.