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HPI sale to NU adds marketing muscle

Used car history checker HPI is looking forward to developing further customer facing products following its acquisition for £120m by Norwich Union Insurance.

The insurer took ownership of the business last week from venture capitalist Phoenix Equity Partners, which had owned HPI for the past 14 months.

Its management sees the move as an opportunity to develop its service, particularly among private car sales. “At the moment only a small proportion of the public carries out HPI checks when buying a car, and that’s around three million transactions a year,” says HPI director Martin Brassell.

“But when people change their cars they often change their insurance company, so we are excited about the sheer amount of marketing muscle that Norwich Union can bring to this.”

The insurer, which is part of the global Aviva group, already insures one in seven vehicles in the UK and is looking to grow its non-core insurance business. HPI, which deals with more than five million transactions a year – the majority of which are through the motor trade, checks a vehicle’s history to verify if its mileage is correct, has been recorded stolen, has been in a major crash or has outstanding finance – holds a market share of around 60% in the UK.

The business will keep its existing senior management team, sites in Salisbury and Harrogate, and all 191 staff, and will continue to operate independently from its parent.

Managing director Simon Walker says that while the venture capital backing by Phoenix had given HPI the resources to become market leader, it was time to find a long-term home.

“We’re confident that Norwich Union will provide HPI with the investment and marketing support it needs to fulfil its potential, without compromising its independence,” he adds. “In turn, we believe we can help Norwich Union to manage the data it is acquiring.”

  • Norwich Union has begun a two-year trial of a ‘pay as you drive’ insurance scheme. Currently, 5,000 cars have been fitted with data loggers, which record real time usage and transmit the data to Norwich Union. If successful, the pilot could mean that insurance premiums will in future be calculated on when, where and how often motorists use their cars.
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