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Armchair auctions

September 19, 2007
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SAN DIEGO — An effort at providing dealers with a wholesale market environment without the travel expense or the pressure bidding atmosphere sometimes associated with auctions is paying off for National Powersport Auctions (NPA).
The powersports-only wholesaler has seen dramatic growth in its eSale, one of two online formats the San Diego-based company offers. ESale allows registered dealers to bid on three weekly sales, each of which lasts three days. To participate, dealers place an entry bid and a maximum bid. Unlike a live simulcast auction, the dealer does not have to constantly watch over his bid. NPA’s system will match the dealer’s bid against others, with the selected vehicle’s price moving up in $100 increments until the highest maximum bid is reached.
“We tried to open up the competitive bid process to the folks that had sincere time crunches and offer another opportunity for people to purchase in an auction environment,” said Justyn Amstutz, NPA’s executive vice president. “So a (dealer) can log on and have the opportunity to buy when it’s convenient for him.”
NPA started the eSale system in 2003, moved it to a bi-monthly event in early 2005 and just this spring started running the three online auctions each week. Part of the reason for increasing the number and frequency of the eSales, Amstutz said, was the manufacturers’ wish to offer “fresh product on a more regular basis.”
As a result, approximately 350 vehicles are sold on eSale each month, close to three times the volume eSale was doing just a year ago. That number also does not reflect the vehicles sold on a Harley-Davidson sale that is restricted to H-D franchised dealers.
Live online bidding, called NPA Simulcast, and the eSale format “are exceptional tools in the context that we understand that dealers have very busy schedules,” Amstutz said. “And we understand it may not be convenient for a smaller shop or even a dealer principal with multiple stores to travel to our auction facilities on a consistent basis.”
More than 8,700 powersports dealers have registered to use eSale, Amstutz said, noting he sees two types of dealers using the format.
“It’s a combination of the guys who have been around it (auctions) for a long time,” he said, “and the folks that are new to it and want to be able to learn it and experience it on their own time frame.”
The online format comes complete with a condition report on the vehicle and a guide that shows dealers historical data on what similar vehicles have sold for.
The eSale format could grow in the near future as NPA has had discussions with OEMs and large dealer groups about branding future online sales, much like Harley-Davidson already has done.
Although Amstutz doesn’t foresee the eSale formats ever eclipsing the volume of sales done at live auctions, he does see future growth for it.
“We have plans to continue to grow this side of the business,” he said.
— Neil Pascale

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