Auction action

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Mobility is the name of the game in the auction world today

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The big news in the auction world has been the return of off-lease vehicles since their virtual disappearance following the economic crisis in 2008.

Although availability is certainly improving, and likely will continue to, the market has had to adjust.

“Our auctions have adapted to service a broader range of sellers. The end-of-lease vehicles remain an important, high-volume segment. However, we have seen a shift in supply from other key portfolios such as dealer-to-dealer, repossessions, fleet and rentals,” says Lisa Scott, senior vice-president, marketing and operations for Adesa Canada, one of the biggest vehicle auction and remarketing services providers.

With supply becoming less of an issue, dealers are looking to technology to make the still-competitive buying process faster and easier, and that means taking their business online, even when they’re still in the lanes.

Canadian Black Book recently launched a CBB Connect app that makes it easier for dealers to investigate the vehicles that interest them at live auctions.

“It was developed in response to what dealers told us,” says Josh Bailey, vice-president, research and editorial at Canadian Black Book. “At auction, time is of the essence, and with this app, one push and you’re finished.”

With the app, interested buyers can still enter the VIN manually, but a predictive keyboard is now part of the process. “It knows what the next letter should be, so it knocks out the letters that don’t make sense,” says Bailey. “It auto-completes where possible.”

Now, too, the app allows dealers to hit a button that opens the camera on their device, scans the VIN and returns the information they’re after, including the Canadian Black Book value. “It uses the device’s own camera technology to act as a scanner,” he says. With some auctions now using bar codes, he says they’ve leveraged that as well.

“We have seen technology play a greater role in the auction process with buyers using data to drive their buying and selling decisions,” says Scott. “Mobile apps enable dealers to conduct business from virtually anywhere. From their mobile device, they can: research vehicle history, view condition reports and find the physical location of a vehicle and when it’s running at auction. They can even create personalized watch lists of vehicles they are interested in, and then purchase the vehicles remotely with these apps.”

These technologies continue to propel change and efficiency. “Our newest version of LiveBlock simulcasts auctions in real time, so dealers can participate remotely in a live auction happening in the lanes, from their computer,” says Scott.

The technology makes it possible to blend the physical and online auction spaces and create a seamless marketplace for customers. “Dealers are busy — our goal is always to make it as easy as possible for them to do business. We also have a new ‘ADESA Market Guide’ on ADESA.ca that provides buyers and sellers the means to evaluate the value of any vehicle.”

Scott says the main difference between buying online and in the lanes is that vehicles online are available 24/7, with an emphasis on making vehicles available daily, while one big live auction might be held each week.

It isn’t an either/or world, though. Instant connectivity, Scott says, is complementary to in-lane sales events, allowing buyers and sellers to gather information when it’s most convenient for them.

Adesa’s new LiveBlock mobile app lets dealers preview and participate in their physical auctions using their mobile devices. Its new Marketplace app makes all the functionality of its website available by mobile. “It even has a GPS function to find cars on the auction lot,” she says. Like the CBB app, this one uses built-in camera technology on smartphones to instantly access vehicle information.

“Everything that’s coming in terms of technology is to help dealers,” says Bailey. “Even if you’re there, buying in the lanes, you have all kinds of information at your disposal.”

Scott says the company will continue developing mobile solutions for customers.

“One example is TradeRev, in which ADESA recently acquired a 50-per cent stake. This will be a game-changer in terms of dealers being able to have access to fresh inventory, and bid on and purchase retail trade vehicles in real time,” she says. “It also allows dealers to create private dealer groups and trade vehicles between their own stores before they ever wholesale. TradeRev is a well-established product in Canada that has proven to be successful.”

The key to successful auction buying, she says, is simple: preparation. “Dealers who utilize all of the online research tools available ahead of time will benefit, whether they participate in online or in-lane auctions.”

For Canadian Black Book, in 2015, Bailey says dealers can look forward to greater availability along with an easier purchasing experience. “Some dealers will get vehicles back off-lease and find them in an equity position versus what the residual value is — the market value will continue to be higher than the residual value — so many will buy the cars before they come to auction, but with more cars going out on lease, there is an opportunity for more to show up in the auction lane.”

While that’s the good news, the bad news may come in the form of an unfavourable exchange rate versus the U.S. dollar, as well as lower fuel prices. “We’re seeing a lot more dealers come up from the U.S.,” he says, “especially to buy trucks in Canada.” If either goes down any further, Bailey says we’re likely to see even more.

But it’s mobility we’ll look back on as the big auction news this year. While many dealers are buying online right from their desks where they can access multiple sites at once while checking out their vehicle histories, the same technologies are now helping those who still get out to the lanes. “Right there, you can have two or three apps open,” Bailey says. “Plus the benefit of laying eyes on the cars themselves — there’s no replacement for that.”


Auction innovation

A new TRADER Exchange offering helps improves your business without having to leave the office.

“With any business, you’re always looking for more convenient, efficient, cost-reducing products,” says Robert Rath, VP-Dealership Products & Business Development, TRADER Corporation, adding that in this particular business, you’re also always looking for the right cars.

“These are all pressures dealerships feel, and from an online point of view, one of the key ingredients is helping used car managers stay available in the office,” he says.

To that end, TRADER Corporation launched its TRADER Exchange platform to the Ontario market last November.

Described as an “online dealer– to–dealer auction platform that provides a quick and secure channel for sourcing and wholesaling vehicles,” Exchange also lets dealers access their existing inventory and easily select to wholesale or retail a vehicle in one step, without having to login to a completely different system.

Rath says that many dealers need several tools or online systems to perform all their day-to-day functions, and that was a big part of the impetus for the development of Exchange. It integrates with their existing desktop inventory management ControlCenter system and the mobile TRADER dealer app, and aggregates data from several partners.

“More and more people — not just dealers but everyone in business — need to interact with their core systems. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the lot, in a test drive or what device they use, [with Exchange] they can still conduct business,” he says.

With trust a big part of a successful formula for TRADER and its clients, just as it is for dealers and theirs, the platform is also aimed at removing any barriers to that trust. The Exchange product includes a verified network of dealers, CarProof VHR and reconditioning report integration, as well as arbitration services.

“A dealer can have confidence that when they’re securing a car through Exchange, it’s as described,” Rath says. “We try to give dealers access to more inventory in a more convenient way through the same tools they use every day. With our partners, we’re increasing the level of trust.”

Another big element of dealer success is cost control, and Exchange helps with that by a simple, inexpensive approach: buyers pay a $100 fee to buy a car, and in an innovative pricing model, sellers are paid $50 for successfully selling the vehicle as well. Rath says that part of the product’s future evolution will see consumers involved too, with an eye on their core mandate of simply helping people buy and sell cars. Their current goal is to scale up in Ontario, and once refined, roll Exchange out across the country.

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