More than a dozen dealers stood on a sidewalk in New Orleans in January bidding on BMWs. The setting was unusual, but the event was designed to show effectiveness of Manheim’s mobile auctions to attendees of the National Automobile Dealers Association. Manheim sees a big opportunity in the cars dealers don’t bring to auction. And they’re meeting this opportunity by bring the auctions to them. The Cox Automotive subsidiary has been growing its mobile auction service the past few years. It now serves more than 70 locations. Many of these are dealer’s own lots, but sales have been run at all kinds of locations, including a baseball park and that side street in New Orleans. Brandon Steven, the owner of a several new- and used-car dealerships in Wichita, Kansas, was already sold on the process before attending the NADA event. He’s been using mobile auctions to move at his stores for six months. “I love the concept,” Steven said. Manheim brings a truck loaded with equipment and staff to run a sale that replicates what bidders experience at a traditional auction. “We can bring the truck literally anywhere,” said Grace Huang, Manheim’s senior vice president of inventory services. The trucks spend their off-time parked at Manheim auctions around the country. It’s these auctions that provide the staff for the trucks. They can serve dealers up to 200 miles away. Janet Barnard, president of Cox Automotive Inventory Solutions, said Manheim could set up a sale for a dealer the next day, but local regulations usually require a longer lead time. Dealers have been running their own auctions for years. The mobile auctions take this process up a step, adding floor planning and Manheim Simulcast bidders. The mobile auction sales bring plenty of motivated buyers, with retention rates above 70 percent. Scott Cahill, used-car manager at East Coast Honda Volkswagen in Myrtle Beach, S.C., has been using the Manheim mobile auctions several years. The dealership runs sales of 175 to 250 units every 60 days. The inventory consists of aged units and trades that don’t fit into the store’s used-car model. Prior to Manheim, the dealership used a smaller auction company to run sales at its store. Cahill said the other company offered far fewer services. The most important feature for Cahill is Manheim Simulcast. The East Coast sales usually draw 50 to 60 online bidders from as far as Michigan. This helps bring higher prices. “It’s not how many cars you sell online,” Cahill said. “It’s how many bids you get online.” Another advantage for East Coast is that since the vehicles stay on their lot until sale time, they can retail them up until the day of the auction. The cars in New Orleans were sold by BMW Financial Services instead of a dealer. And all but two of the BMWs were off-site, so the whole effect was a little lacking. But Steven still feels it worked, “It was a great way to display what they’re doing,” he said.