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Shaking up the UK salvage auction market

With the announcement of IAA’s acquisition of SYNETIQ Ltd, which is currently pending UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) approval, we’re revisiting IAA’s debut in the UK market. June 2020 saw the arrival of a new big name in the UK salvage auction world. Almost a year after purchasing HBC Vehicle Services, the market’s longest-established online auction, its new owners, U.S.-based and publicly traded IAA, Inc. (NYSE: IAA), officially rebranded the UK business under the IAA banner.

Shaking up the UK salvage auction market p

IAA may be a global leader in the total-loss, damaged and low-value vehicle auctions world, but its entry into the UK has been a respectful and organic process. Defying the clichés that big U.S. companies come into the UK market and assume they know best, IAA focused on building on and enhancing HBC’s existing operations, capitalizing on local relationships and expertise cultivated over many years. 

In the end, IAA’s motivating desire has been to deliver a solution for its customers in the UK market. There’s no doubt IAA’s financial and technological muscle will continue to have a transformational impact on its own UK business and on the UK salvage auction market as a whole, regardless of the outcome of the CMA review process.

When IAA was looking to get involved in the UK market, it wanted to find a local operation with a strong track record and an established market presence. As global technology leader, the most important aspect of any acquisition for IAA has always been finding the right people with the right knowledge and expertise. HBC fitted the bill.

It was then a question of taking the UK operation to a new level by gradually introducing some of the tools, technology and infrastructural resources IAA has built up in the U.S. and Canada – while respecting the unique features of the UK market. Meanwhile, a huge investment in new infrastructure and real estate has significantly expanded the capacity of IAA’s UK business.

The UK market is less consolidated than its North American equivalent, with a broader array of competitors. But, despite its scale and resources, IAA recognized from the outset that it would face healthy competition for market share and would need to differentiate its proposition clearly. 

Its advanced technology is obviously a part of that. For example, IAA’s UK operation already provides a market-leading level of insight into each and every vehicle – with 360-degree video inside and out, and ten-second engine recordings for every vehicle with a working engine. The company’s main focus is on pursuing a partnership approach with UK buyers and sellers, leveraging its technology and expertise to help those partners work smarter, faster and more efficiently.

A robust, flexible and effective auction infrastructure is just the starting point for IAA. There’s obvious value in introducing smart automation at every point in the process. Beyond that, IAA defines its role as helping its partners interpret and benefit fully from data, empowering them with a clearer idea of how, where and when they would want to buy or sell. 

For example, sellers on IAA’s auction platform can quickly and easily understand which particular segments of their vehicle inventory are selling better on which particular channel, e.g. IAA Timed Auctions™, IAA Buy-Now™ or IAA AuctionNow™. IAA focuses on building trust by giving its partners every possible chance to transact successfully.

IAA believes that a serious commitment to transparency means highlighting, not just what’s working well, but also areas that could be working better. Resisting any temptation to be selective with what data is shared gives buyers and sellers the maximum opportunity to benefit.

Clearly, partner-businesses in sectors like insurance and claims need little convincing of the value of a data-rich data-transparent environment. No matter where we sit in the process, we’re all becoming increasingly aware of the transformational power of data. Without it, decision-making and performance measurement are effectively just guesswork.

The approach pioneered by IAA will inevitably spread to the rest of the market. Buyers will gravitate toward auctions that inform their decision-making with quality photos, videos and detailed data on the vehicles offered for sale. They’ll demand consistent ease of use, dependable insight and value. The data-driven tide is rising, and ultimately all participants in the UK market stand to benefit.