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Auction Industry Needs Open Mind

Auction Industry Needs Open Mind Featured

Yet again, attending this year’s National Auto Auction Association meeting in Red Rock, Nev., as part of Used Car Week, is going to demand some of the broadest minds from all attendees.

   This year has seen a phalanx of changes for almost everyone involved in the industry, all the way from manufacturers to drive services. But behind the scenes, the auto auction industry continues to morph like an octopus, getting its arms around the next suite of services to be provided to old customers with new ideas or new customers wanting to revive old ideas in a more modern setting.

   A great deal has already been said about online activities to the point that internet access to inventory or its distribution now seem to be old hat.

   What has changed are the access points availed to all the different players; manufacturers prompt CPO sales from their own systems direct to their franchised dealers. The data about any vehicle being fully disclosed in exquisite detail in order to promote more confident and thus higher participation by bidders, thence higher prices. That idea, in itself, is far from new but the technology now available is enabling the players to shuffle their positions in the transactions – upstream marketing has come to the wellspring!

   Auction companies are now more deeply involved in helping dealers source vehicles with microscopic peculiarity. Historical sales data overlaid on vehicle availability is now more science than art and the old used-car manager’s nose is being replaced by a mouse. We can even see what’s in the pipeline and geographically place product into the most absorbent market.

   As I’ve said, some of this is not entirely new thinking, just functionally, more doable.

   Cars’ histories are now as important as any other information in establishing price – I’ve long been a proponent of getting access to vehicles’ build sheets direct from the manufacturer – again not a new idea – we used to rely on “Passport to Service” books to confirm mileages and service records back in the sixties.

   Whilst information is more freely available, cars are still large objects that have to be moved, cleaned, sometimes stored –ask General Motors – so infrastructure still has to maintain. But even here, efficiencies are being measured and improved, mainly to keep prices at levels acceptable to customers. Talking of which, a great deal of pricing for the auction industry is still in the dark ages of the eighties. This relates more to services like reconditioning than buyers’ and sellers’ fees but even some institutional customers pay what they did decades ago for such prices. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in states where minimum wage mandates, at $15 an hour, take effect on distribution costs. Do I sniff a whiff of inflation in the air? Another subject for another day!

   Perhaps while the industry gathers to share insights, knowledge, new products and services, some thought might be given to the remarketing of electric vehicles in the future. For sure it’s not too soon to form some discourse on the subject before Uncle Sam imposes new (expensive) regulations as to how to do it their way. It needs to be done without disruption to existing marketing strategies. To some extent, valuations of used vehicles depends on their perceived useful life left. At the moment new batteries are excruciatingly expensive and how do we dispose of the old ones? You can’t just hurl one of those bad boys in the nearest dumpster. Some authority is bound to participate in the disposal. So early discussions by all the parties involved would bode better for any position, going forward.

   Meanwhile the jackboots of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau are heard stomping loudly around. They certainly have broad minds – as wide as they own perceptions of authority!

    For a while our conventions started to be a little repetitious – no more. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…


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Tony Moorby

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