Interview with Laura Taylor GM of CAA

By Jeffrey Bellant September 09, 2019

Laura Taylor, general manager of Charleston Auto Auction, is the incoming president of the National Auto Auction Association. The auction is part of the XLerate Group.

 

UCN: Congratulations on becoming the next NAAA president. Can you tell us about your background and how you got into the auction business?

 

Taylor: When I was growing up, my father and grandfather had a small service station. I’ve been around cars a long time. My father raced a Chevrolet back in the day. It was very exciting. He used to buy cars at Clanton’s Auto Auction, what is now Manheim Darlington.

Later I had my own restaurant and my own mobile sign business. I worked NHRA drag racing. I worked car shows.  I’ve always been fascinated by fast things – cars, airplanes. I sold repo cars for a remarketing company in Spartanburg, S.C. I’ve got some friends that owned Upstate Auto Auction, used to be called Spartanburg Auto Auction. I went to work for them. They needed help running the office.

I actually planned on moving to Charleston to take it a little easier. I  went to Charleston Auto Auction in 2004. It was running two lanes and 60 cars. I thought there was nowhere to go but up. I thought I was going to get out of the industry, but it keeps pulling you back in. Henry and Patty (Stanley) owned that place and when the market fell in 2008-2009, that’s when we started to separate and start the group. It started out as AAAG (America’s Auto Auction Group) and now it’s known as XLerate. Been there going on 15 years.

 

UCN: What challenges, if any, have you faced being a woman and a leader in a male-dominated industry? How have attitudes changed from when you first started out?

 

Taylor: There’s not any challenge. Pretty much all of the men I’ve run into in this industry treat us as their partners. They’re very respectful. Obviously, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m about to go into if this (wasn’t true). I’m the fifth woman president since 1948. I’m very proud to follow Alexis Jacobs, Charlotte Pyle and Ellie (Johnson). As far as where things have changed, NAAA CEO Frank (Hackett) made a comment that women have done such a great job and men have seen that.

But you have to be tough and you’ve got to be knowledgeable. Most of the women that were my mentors have either grown up in the industry or were owners of the auctions. Now we’re starting to get women from sales backgrounds and different industries. I could not go into the presidency without the great team I have at Charleston. We’re constantly looking for women that show an interest.

 

 

UCN: Focusing on the auction industry, tariffs continue to be a controversial issue on the economic front. Have you seen any effects of tariffs on the industry or the ongoing uncertainty connected to them?

 

Taylor: I was actually on Capitol Hill last year with the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association. That was one of the conversations we were having with (lawmakers). This could change at any time. I think everybody realizes that this is something that has to be done. Sometimes you’ve got to lose a little bit to get the (positive) effects in the long run. I think it’s going to be probably one of the best things that we’ve had to do.

 

 

UCN: The NAAA has done a lot to address safety in the lanes. How has that effort been paying off? Are there any other programs or policies involving safety that NAAA is working on?

 

Taylor: That’s been the hot topic for all of us. The Safe T. Sam that was brought over from ADESA to the NAAA now has nearly 90,000 certified people. XLerate  is 100 percent Safe T. Sam certified. Safety is going to be at the forefront of everything we’re doing going forward. Brick and mortar will sustain a place in the industry, so we need to continue with (improving) safety and dealing with safety issues.

 

 

UCN: The overall economy seems strong. What are your expectations for the outlook for the rest of 2019 and entering 2020?

 

Taylor: We had such a strong 2016 and 2017, while 2018 kind of leveled off. This year has been level with that. June and July are when we would typically see the market soften or fall back a bit. We are predicting that the used-car market will see a lift, along with the new-car market. Volumes have been off in fleet/lease and repos. But we’re looking forward to a good 2020.

 

 

UCN:  The traditional make-up of the auction industry used to be corporates like Manheim and ADESA on the one side and independents on the another. Now we have several independent auction groups like XLerate, ServNet, McConkey Auction Group, Dealers Auto Auction Group and America’s Auto Auction group. What makes these independent auction groups different?

 

Taylor: With most of the independents, like auctions in the XLerate Group, they are family-owned auctions that are purchased. The family can elect to come along and we typically like that. So, you still have that kind of a corporate-like (structure) with an independent mentality. So, I can make a decision at the auction without having to call corporate. That’s a big difference. Also, a customer can walk in with a situation and come straight to the GM at our auctions. It’s still all about customer service. We can’t always offer a lot of the incentives that the corporates can, but that’s why we go the extra mile in dealer services. Without the customers, there is no auction.

It is a social club. Some of my top customers used to be 14 or 15 years old, coming to the auctions with their dad, ringing the bell. Now they’re up "repping" cars. It’s a family tradition and I don’t see that going away. You can’t take that experience away.

 

 

UCN:  NAAA’s Auction of the Year program, started in 2016, has been a great addition to the industry. Your auction, Charleston Auto Auction, was the 2017 winner. Do you think the NAAA having this type of award inspires auctions to do better or is it simply important to recognize the good work auctions are already doing?

 

Taylor: Auctions gave an estimated $5 million to charity last year (and that probably isn’t near the true number). The auction industry has some of the greatest people in the nation. So, I don’t think the award made anyone go out and start giving. Does it make some places get even more involved? Probably. The first year’s winner, an employee gave a kidney. How do you beat that? I look forward to hearing the story of this year’s winner. I think people will continue to give regardless. Rewarding that is excellent.

 

 

 

UCN: What are your goals for your terms as NAAA President? What issues are most important to you?

 

Taylor: I follow a long line of great leaders who had great ideas. Chad (Bailey, the outgoing president) has been a delight and his passion has been contagious. Safety will be on the forefront, especially in the area of active shooters. It’s making people aware and alert. We plan on having training for that.

We want to continue to continue with the education program. It’s also important to find more transporters, CR writers and mechanics of the future.  Finding employees will continue to be a problem. We’ve got more to contribute, and we’ve got more to learn.

We also want more participation from members.

My funny story is when I first started going to conventions and I first walked accidentally into an executive board meeting, Charlotte Pyle turns around and said, “You can’t come in here.” I said, “What do I have to do to come in here?”  She said, “You’ve got to be on the executive board.” So, I said, “I’ll see you soon.”

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Last modified on Monday, 09 September 2019 16:46

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