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Auctions shrug off threat from internet

Internet auctions will never replace traditional auction companies in the hearts and minds of fleet managers, despite recent high profile deals to sell fleet cars through the global giant eBay, the industry has claimed.

The logistics of moving, preparing and selling vehicles at the speed fleets need means that although public internet auction sites can be useful in certain situations, they will prove less successful when there are hundreds of cars to be sold.

Internet auction firm AutoQuake has announced it has signed agreements with three major leasing companies to pilot selling ex-fleet cars to consumers through eBay, claiming that buyers can secure vehicles at prices 20-30% lower than on a dealer forecourt, although it will not reveal who those companies are.

Cars are in the auction for seven days, with comprehensive guidance on condition and history. All vehicles are prepared at AutoQuake’s two centres in Devon and London, and it has sold 2,000 cars through eBay in the last three years.

Vice-president of marketing Fredrik Skantze claims there is huge potential for remarketing in this way. He said: ‘Leasing companies are really positive about it, and we’re achieving higher prices because the public generally pays higher prices. We have big ambitions for growth: we’re taking out a link in the value chain.’

However, the traditional remarketing companies are less sure. BCA’s Tony Gannon commented: ‘AutoQuake is acting as the agent to sell vehicles through eBay’s bulletin-board style tender system to consumers.

Dealing with the public brings its own set of demands as a flick through their feedback indicates and entering into the murky waters of quasi-retailing will not suit every corporate vendor.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# ‘If fleet vendors want speed, efficiency, one set of fees and depreciating assets sold and more importantly staying sold then the wholesale remarketing arena delivers everything they need.’

And Manheim’s group communications director Rob Barr added: ‘I’m not quite sure that AutoQuake realises just how sophisticated remarketing used vehicles on behalf of corporate fleets actually is. It takes years of development and a substantial multi-million pound investment to offer an array of products and services designed to maximise the value of used vehicles.

‘On top of that, you need massive buying power in the form of thousands of buyers who regularly use you to buy vehicles, simply because you make the process easy and they trust it.’

He added: ‘Manheim’s proposition is not about offering end users the opportunity to buy vehicles at ‘very low prices’, up to 30% cheaper than on dealers’ forecourts as AutoQuake do. It’s about aiming for top value and in our experience we consistently achieve in excess of CAP clean values, which means the gap from this to forecourt prices is closer to 15%.’

A spokesman for fleet operators’ association Acfo said the internet will never replace the auction hall, but added: ‘It could be a viable added channel to market if it is managed properly, but you can’t forget about the used car trader and buyer who likes to touch and see cars. For some wily fleet managers, it’s worth evaluating whether the odd vehicle, especially niche cars or very cheap, poor condition cars, might be worth being sold in this way.’

Tony Styles, Black Book valuation manager at CAP, is impressed with the presentation of cars and the prices achieved by firms such as AutoQuake.

But he said: ‘From a fleet point of view, traditional auctions can turn a lot of cars into cash in a short period of time.

‘You may get higher prices through internet auction but with fleets there is an element of selling them on as quickly as possible, which means a seven-day internet auction could be less financially viable for a lot of vehicles.’

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