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BVSF – Undercover storage helps re-define salvage model

Car Transplants’ latest feature by the British Vehicle Salvage Federation 

To view a larger version of the article by Steve Rooney at the BVSF please see below

Steve Rooney visits BVSF member Car transplants’ impressive new facility at Winsford.

Over the years of visiting salvage and dismantling  operations, I have witnessed  many good ideas and best practice, but on occasions  you come across something that looks more significant; a game-changer. Car Transplants’ impressive facility in Winsford is one of those.

Scale has always been an important factor in the salvage business. It doesn’t mean that you can’t compete without a massive yard if you have a niche focus – and there are some very good examples of businesses making that work successfully – but if you are bidding for work on a national level, then you need to be able to handle large volumes. The evolution of the sector over recent decades has seen significant investment in larger yards and huge amounts of concrete. Car Transplants has taken that one step further; not only does it have a large concreted-site, its 15 acres at Winsford includes eight acres of warehousing. This means it can provide secure, high quality storage facilities under cover for its insurance clients and a first class environment for salvage buyers to see the stock.

Car Transplants moved into new premises in Winsford a year ago, although it owned the site, a former packaging plant, since 2010. In May this year it took on the nationwide contract for Allianz for which its new site is ideally suited. Throughput for the site is estimated at around 30,000 vehicles by Car Transplants’ John Schofield who started the business some 40 years ago with his two brothers. The company remains a family-owned business today with John’s son Simon and daughter Anna a key part of the management team. The new Winsford site is one of three operated by the company, with the original 11-acre Winsford site nearby retained for storage, and a vehicle dismantling and parts sales operation at Nantwich that covers six acres.

“We have always handled vehicles with the utmost care,” says John, “but here we have been able to enhance that further. All the high-value, prestige cars can be stored indoors and there are also cases where there is a well-known insured owner, so those cars need to be well hidden.”

Keeping the stock secure as well as protected from the elements is also much easier with the vast areas under cover. An electric perimeter fence, floodlighting and 24-hour onsite security ensure a tight cordon is maintained.

“We often store some very high value cars with sat nav etc, but we have now virtually eliminated the possibility of break-ins,” adds John

The undercover facility also enables the company to work whatever the conditions outside. “We can now work 24/7 under cover, and dark nights and rain are no problem for us,” adds John.

The Allianz contract involves managing salvage collections across the UK and Ireland with stock brought to Winsford for assessment, storage and eventual sale.

The site has almost eight acres of warehousing providing excellent facilities for storing high value cars.

The new site enables Car Transplants to provide excellent facilities for Allianz’s own engineers to carry out inspections and categorisation and there is a dedicated area within the main building from which they can operate.

There are a total of eight image bays on the Winsford site with all vehicles cleaned beforehand and a great deal of attention being paid to getting good visuals of all the salvage stock. Although there is ample opportunity to view the cars for sale in the main warehouse, a lot of people will buy straight from the images, according to John. There are also plans to support the sale of second hand engines by including video footage of engines running.

Three auctions are held each week – on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday – with all stock fully listed on the website which includes full bidding facilities. Around 600 vehicles can be stored in the main building for previewing by potential buyers.

There is also a dedicated motorbike section with the company handling around 1,000 bike breakers a year, mainly coming from insurance and police contracts. All the bikes are broken in-house with full imaging carried out in the same way as the car stock.

The company also handles all types of commercial vehicles, with current stock at the time of writing including two 2011 MAN TGX 6×2 10.5-litre sleeper cab tractor units and a pair of 2005 Volvo FH12 6×2 12-litre tractor units.

BVSF members share a strong focus on improving the image of the industry and John is no exception. He has made good use of the new premises by inviting representatives from motor manufacturers, police and government bodies. “We all need to protect the salvage industry and make sure we show how we do it properly,” says John. “We aim to present a very positive image to all our visitors and they often go away with a very different attitude towards our sector.”

Doing it right means sticking rigidly to the Code of Practice, argues John. “If we operate correctly then there is a great future in salvage, but we need to protect our industry’s future.

“The salvage market has changed a lot in recent years but I believe that everyone should stick to the ABI Code of Practice. This means Cat As and Bs should not be exported, and if a car is a Cat B, it should not be re-classified to a Cat C for short term revenue gain. And Bs should never go back on the road, even though the DVLA will still issue a V5 for one. “The only way forward is for us all to heed the Code.”

A demonstration of the company’s commitment to best practice is its environmental accreditation, ISO 14001 2004, for the Nantwich site which handles all vehicle depollution and processing. The company’s environmental policy statement is available on its website and among its key principles are the following commitments:

• Integrating the consideration of environmental concerns and impacts into all of our decision-making and activities and recognising that the minimum acceptable level of environmental performance and pollution prevention is that set out in current environmental legislation.

• Purchasing recycled, recyclable and environmentally responsible products where these are available, economical and suitable and working in partnership with suppliers and customers to establish high environmental standards.

Car Transplants also aims to ensure that its employees, which number around 100 across its three sites, are made aware of their responsibilities in terms of good environmental management.

Of course it always helps if your employees have a real passion for the job, and Car Transplants’ people are almost all car enthusiasts, according to John’s son Simon. He points out that the company has benefited from retaining employees including some with nearly 40 years’ service. “You really need to be interested in cars to thrive here,” says Simon.

“Staff need to learn by working in the yard and understanding the cars and types of damage and then perhaps move on to the image bays and possibly forklift work. By covering all the roles it helps to develop their overall attention to detail.”

And indeed Simon himself started out on yard duties when he joined the business 16 years ago and today has the role of contracts manager.

One of the ways in which the company helps staff indulge in their interest is with a collection of modern classic vehicles that John has gathered over the past 40 years. Staff members will often drive some of the older cars for rallies and events like weddings.

John’s interesting collection of cars is on show at the new premises and eventually he plans to open it to the public as a museum. Walking through the exhibits gives you a real sense of the history of motoring over the past few decades with One of two F100 Rat pickups in John’s collection. one of John’s favourites being a 1960 Ford Thunderbird two-door saloon with a whopping 7-litre engine. The vehicle on show was rebuilt using a replica donor vehicle. His commitment to recycling meant that he didn’t waste the body shell of the donor vehicle either, as the front section now sits proudly in the main office having been converted into a desk, and the rear will eventually be a star exhibit hanging above the entrance to the building. Other exhibits in the museum collection, which is housed on two floors of the main building, include an 8-litre V8 Cadillac Eldorado, a 1962 BMW Isetta bubble car with a 290cc engine, a pair of Ford F100 Rat pickups and a 1972 Jaguar E-type. John also has a 1969 Mercedes Pagoda SL280 convertible awaiting restoration, work which is all completed on site, apart from painting.

“I hope that the business will still be collecting classic vehicles of the day in another 40 years,” says John.

There is certainly a strong future vision at Car Transplants and the impressive Winsford site has plenty of capacity to take on other major national contracts which are being actively targeted at the moment.

A large site with huge undercover facilities obviously comes with higher costs, but the potential rewards are also high, with insurers and other clients able to benefit from increased security and protection for the cars. It’s an interesting development that brings new higher standards to the sector’s standard business model and we look forward to watching its progress.

Footnote from BVSF secretary general Roger West:

“I was invited to visit Car Transplants earlier in the summer and was made very welcome by John and his team. I have to say that I was suitably impressed by the operation as a whole and would like to take this opportunity of thanking John for allowing me to use up a very valuable day of both his time and a day in the life of Car Transplants.”