On the Auction Block

Powersport auctions are catering to dealers' every need


In today’s connected, smartphone-addicted society, everything is at our fingertips, and the world of powersports auctions is no exception. To keep up with the changing times and dealer demands, auction companies everywhere have greatly increased the number of live auctions happening every week and every day, and they have created substantial presences online available to dealers 24/7 via computer or mobile technology.

With an increased amount of auctions to choose from and more tools at the hands of the dealers, the most drastic change in the auction world is whether dealers are choosing to attend them
in-person or online.

The demand for inventory and the growth of online and mobile auction services has changed how auction companies operate and cater to dealers. For instance, National Powersport Auctions (NPA) sells 5,000-7,000 used powersports products a month and has an auction closing every day of the week. It holds four live auctions a month at its nationwide facilities in San Diego, Dallas, Cincinnati and Atlanta.

While Manheim has auctions for powersports in 14 locations in the U.S. and runs more than 24 powersport auctions a month, including through OVE.com, an online marketplace that is available 24/7.

“We offer three dedicated online platforms available to dealers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including NPA eSale, NPA Insurance|Total Loss, and NPA Black Market,” says NPA’s COO
Jim Woodruff.

With online auction sites like eBay Motors offering dealers an ecosystem of 128 million users in which a motorcycle sells every seven minutes, auction companies see the need to have a larger, more robust presence online with more tools available for dealers to keep using their services.

“Dealers can use our website or mobile site (www.npauctions.com) where we list all upcoming auction information, available inventory for sale, and detailed information about every vehicle including model details, miles, VIN, title type, and full NPA condition report,” says Woodruff. “Various search tools are available to help dealers focus on the inventory most interesting to them. NPA’s goal is to make the online visitor feel as though they are previewing the bike in person.”

While not everyone is able to travel to various live auctions in person, places like Manheim and NPA now simulcast their live auctions so dealers can get the live experience from behind their computer screen.

“Dealers use Manheim.com to locate the inventory they need, research a vehicle’s condition and participate in the auction through simulcast,” says Peter Trench, VP commercial accounts, Manheim. “Over 35% of our powersport sales occur on simulcast. The Internet has given dealers a great way to source inventory, expanding the area they can source from and making each trip to the auction a successful event.”

The Auction Toolbox
To make these auctions more successful, the number and type of tools available to dealers has grown tremendously. Manheim offers a full suite of programs to help dealers get the most out of buying from them.
“Manheim.com is a very valuable tool for searching, researching and buying,” Trench says.

“We have NextGear Capital to offer floorplan services to buyers. We have ReadyAuto Transport to offer easy-to-use transportation services that can be accessed via the Internet, and we offer title processing services and arbitration resolution for assisting buyers.”

NPA isn’t slouching in this department either. Along with providing dealers things like multiple live and online buying platforms, an extensive online condition report on every motorcycle sold, online previewing and inventory management, mobile access to all key features, NPA also offers tools and programs to assist dealers through the entire buying process.

“Online tools offered by NPA provide everything a dealer needs to prepare for an auction including run lists, full-color condition reports, book values, auction values, search tools, NPA Watch List and Wish List, real-time proxy bids, multi-lane simulcast bidding, last-chance offers, salvage history screening, real-time notifications, online account management of purchases and payments, reporting, and much more,” says Woodruff.

This is where auction companies like NPA and Manheim separate themselves from online only auctions. However, sites such as eBay Motors also offer a suite of tools for those dealers who want to increase their online retail presence through eBay as a complementary channel to their brick-and-mortar locations.
eBay Motors empowers dealers to reach customers in the ways they want to shop, including via online and mobile.

It provides dealers with a variety of pricing models, as well as support every step of the way. For instance, eBay Motors national subscriptions program enables small and mid-size dealerships to reach millions of shoppers across the nation for a fixed subscription rate.

Through the program, dealers can leverage a consistent monthly online sales channel through one of the most trafficked online destinations, complete with dedicated account support and in-depth reporting. eBay Motors also has an eDealer Training program, in which dealers can learn a variety of best practices to become more successful sellers, according to an eBay Motors representative.

With all these tools and ways to integrate a live and an online auction, the two realms have become rather seamless today.

A Better Experience
Though it will never replace physically being present, online purchasing is now the dominant method dealers use to buy and sell inventory in the powersports world.

“Attending the auction online allows you to view the bike better than in person,” says Jeremy Coon, owner of Lucky U Cycles. “You get pictures, credit scores, value guides and more. I go online more because of those options.”

In 2013, approximately 70% of the inventory purchased from NPA was bought online, either through NPA Simulcast or through one of its eSale platforms, according to Woodruff. “At this point, based upon feedback from our dealers, we believe it’s seamless for a dealer to buy either live or online – it’s really up to their preference,” he says.

NPA recommends that dealers who are new to auctions should visit one of its facilities so they can see first-hand the process and powersports condition report system.

“Once dealers understand our process and condition reports, they often choose to bid from their home or dealership via NPA Simulcast or NPA eSale,” says Woodruff.

Lucky U Cycles in Wildwood, Fla., for instance, now only attends live auctions three times a year, and those visits are more as a way to get out of the shop and have face-to-face time with others in the industry than for the auction itself, according to Coon.

Manheim echoes those findings as well. Powersport dealers have gotten very comfortable buying online.
“Manheim makes the experience at the live auction and online auction a seamless experience for the dealers,” Trench says. “The strong delivery of the auction experience online has allowed dealers to attend more auctions whether in person or online and have confidence in the transaction.”

The addition of simulcast to live auctions is one of the bigger factors in blending live auctions with online auctions.

“With simulcast, dealers are able to bid from their computer anywhere with an Internet connection and they are able to see photos of the vehicle, details about the vehicle, and hear the auctioneer in real time,” Woodruff says. “NPA Simulcast also offers dealers the ability to communicate directly with the auctioneer via the chat option.”

The future of powersports auctions
No matter when and how dealers are choosing to use auctions, recently they are doing so with much more confidence than in the past and industry experts expect 2014 to be no different.

“The new and used market should be strong and see increases in 2014,” Trench says. “People are feeling better about the economy, and banks/credit unions have money to lend. Auction values will be strong and wholesale supply will remain steady. Repo rates are low, which will keep the auction supply under control.”

With the lines between online and offline commerce continuing to blur, and dealers increasingly adopting online and mobile technology into their process for buying and selling inventory, auction companies have no choice but to cater to those needs moving forward.

“The use of our mobile platforms has sky rocketed since their introduction, with over 35% of our online traffic coming from phones or other mobile devices,” Woodruff says.

With continuing adoption of new technologies and processes among auction companies and dealers, and a strong outlook in 2014, the future of powersports auctions looks bright.

Classic Bike Auctions Making Money the Old-Fashioned Way  
By Margie Siegal

Classic bikes stir the blood, bring back wonderful scenes of the past, and can take you for a longer ride than just down memory lane. They are also often a good investment. Although the words “investment” and “motorcycle” don’t seem like they belong in the same sentence, in the last 20 years motorcycle collecting has become a mainstream – and very lucrative – activity.

One of the most common ways to acquire a vintage bike is at an auction, and as prices have gone up, the size and number of auctions has skyrocketed.

Once a rather low key effort, classic motorcycle auctions have become sumptuous events at premier venues. The classic bike auction scene has been noticed by none other than the Wall Street Journal, which recently devoted a feature article to the millions of dollars now changing hands.

Just look at the numbers and the players involved in these affairs. Bonhams, an upscale English auction house, sold $3.3 million dollars worth of machinery at its fourth annual Las Vegas auction this January. A few blocks away, MidAmerica Auctions (which recently merged with collector car specialist Mecum Auctions) was gavelling its way through its 23rd annual event, which saw 441 bikes sell for a total of $7 million.

Glenn Bator, a well known motorcycle broker who has run auctions in the past, says that around the mid-’90s, prices started going through the roof when some well-heeled enthusiasts, including George Barber, Dale Walksler, E.J. Cole and Otis Chandler, started collecting. “It was a time when Barber was starting to build his museum and racetrack. In the 20 years since, prices have multiplied tenfold. The B and C bikes got pulled up in the wake of the A-class bikes.”

 Major Auction Houses

MidAmerica: www.midameriaauctions.com
Jerry Wood & Co.: www.jwoodandcompany.com
Bonhams: www.bonhams.com
Glenn Bator: www.batorinternational.com

One of the longest running auctions is the Daytona Bike Week auction, run by Jerry Wood and Company, who now also runs the annual auction at the Barber Museum. Jerry Wood says that auction goers cannot be stereotyped: “We have always had lots of different folks attend auctions. Quite often, we get people who were very famous at one time.”

Wood states that not every old bike is going to do well at an auction. “There is always a supply of badly done restorations. The big demand is for bikes that are good originals or very well done restorations.” Nick Smith, head of motorcycles for the U.S. at Bonham’s, sees a demand for rare or collectible bikes. “We’ve seen more attention given to those that are likely to appreciate or are difficult to obtain.”

One type of event that always brings large numbers of bidders is an old collection offered at an estate sale. “Nothing turns out a crowd like the real deal and real bikes that have been hidden away,” says Wood.

There was a blip in the collecting world during the 2009 recession, but interest in auctions and buyers with cash to spend have returned, and prices have once again increased. “The collecting world is healthy again,” says Bator. “People are breathing easier and doing a little speculation buying. They are going out on a limb a little further.”

Wood agrees: “The speculators are still at auctions, but they are more careful now. I see pre-1970 American motorcycles holding value and early examples rising. Although asking prices are way up, unreasonably priced bikes tend not to sell. The interest in Japanese collectables is increasing as younger collectors look for the bikes of their youth. The vintage bike hobby is growing and doing very well.”

Nick Smith points out that, despite the increase in values, people are still buying bikes for fun like they’ve always done. “I’ve always believed that one should look for a bike because they intend to enjoy it. Period. If it goes up in value over time, that’s great. But motorcycles are meant to be enjoyed.”

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