The second-hand car market has moved in the past five years from being the unloved child of the motor industry to a new Eldorado with fortunes to be made, according to one expert.
High prices and shortages of new cars, coupled with better reliability, mean that more attention than ever is being paid to second-hand vehicles.
This has led to fundamental changes in the industry, including easier financing, internet shopping and more third-party involvement, said Jean-François Brazeau, founder with his brother Yann of Stimcar, which reconditions second-hand cars for the motoring trade.
“In France, only 40% of used car sales are made by professionals,” Mr Brazeau told The Connexion.
“The rest are handled by individuals, with all the problems and inconveniences that can arise. There is enormous potential for the industry to become more involved and for the process to be made more professional, which will boost profits in a very important part of the economy and provide car owners with better protection.”
Making used car market more professional
His brother worked with PSA Peugeot in Japan and was one of the founders of the online car sales site Aramisauto.
Combining this motoring trade know-how with Mr Brazeau’s IT background, they have developed a system where used cars with 20-200,000km can be entirely checked over and reconditioned to ‘nearly new’ status.
Using computer systems developed by the brothers, mechanics check all parts of the car, replace those that are worn, do bodywork repairs, and then repaint if needed.
At the same time, a digital file is created so the garages or fleets that buy the cars can market them instantly online.
A maximum of five days is given for a car to be ready – the company has developed a ‘just in time’ logistics system for spares so that if parts are needed, mechanics know they will arrive the next day.
“In the old days, the used-car part of a garage was considered secondary. Cars were prepared for sale only when the workshop was not busy, and not a lot of thought was given to selling them,” said Mr Brazeau.
“This has changed, and with the extra guarantees given to used-car buyers if they buy from a professional, there is room for third-parties like Stimcar to specialise in preparation.”
Stellantis – the company formed when PSA Peugeot Citroën merged with Fiat Chrysler – took a 60% stake in the company to speed its development, but has left the brothers in charge.
Brexit keeps UK out of expansion plans
They have already expanded from their first workshop in Nantes to open others in Bordeaux and Toulouse, and expect to have around 20 in France in the next year.
Internationally, they are targeting Spain, Italy and Germany next, with help from Stellantis, especially in finding suitable premises for workshops.
The UK might follow, being on a list of countries drawn up with Stellantis, but is not a priority – Brexit makes things more complicated.
All car makes are handled by Stimcar, although the link with Stellantis means that garages in its network will be steered towards it as a first choice.
Mr Brazeau said the company does not fear competition.
“We want to expand fast and well, and are confident that our IT systems, which are protected and very efficient, will give us a head start over others.”