Six hours to showtime. We have 58 vehicles and 1 motorcycle for today’s sale. It will be a very interesting day between the first dealer conversation and the last car that rolls (or gets pushed) through the lane. We’re going to be managing an on site sale for a large financial institution that is most definitely not in the car business. Their business is the money business. They will demand 59 checks in hand within 24 hours, and these vehicles must help keep their books healthy for the end of year bonuses.
As for us… we have the bank’s managers, a long line of new and returning dealers, dozens of flat tires, dead batteries, cars with varying sorts of mysterious starting problems, and a thunderstorm set to hit in an hour. The cars? Everything from a ragged out 2008 Chrysler 300 to a pristine Mommy-van van whose only owner had the misfortune of dying back in September. The cars are here… now we just need to build the market and have a great sale.
One of the fortunes I have is my dual role as a dealer and an auctioneer. As a dealer, I get on a lot of mailing lists from other sales and when I do, I get to constantly build my market… in an entirely legal way of course. This weekend yielded some very good results.
By Monday morning we have already sent off a list of vehicles to our dealers that now include several dozen new names. Within hours we have new dealers who are ringing our line to become registered with our sale. It looks to be a great day which isn’t surprising. Given that we’re on the cusp of tax season where folks put their returns towards down payments on their new rides, today’s sale will more than likely be especially strong.
Most auctions have one lot manager who is in charge of a given number of vehicles. They will battery jump the vehicles, add fuel, pump tires, change batteries, and will even shoot some starter fluid to awaken a long slumbering jalopy or ten. We have two lot managers for our sale. Why? It’s cheap insurance and all of these cars have been sitting for a while.
When you’re dealing with a lot of older repossessed inventory that has been laying about, you simply need extra hands to prepare for the uninspected. Even if one vehicle doesn’t go through, that ‘no-sale’ will translate into two lost fees. A buyer’s fee and a seller’s fee. Needless to say, we’re always amply staffed.
I love cars, but like the bank, I want the metal to go away. The long and the short of it is that our job as auctioneers is to take care of the ‘patient’ after the patient’s dead. Most of these cars have lived rough lives and when you open the door to these cars, you get a very complete picture of most of their owners.
Some were single moms whose debts and economic misfortunes simply caught up with them. Others were big spenders who were willing to pay big money for rims, audio systems, and TV’s. Some were perverts. Others were gangsta wannabes, druggies, or simply had more money than sense. A surprising number are laid off teachers and government employees. In 2007 very few repos on average came from responsible owners. In 2009, the title histories and well kept metal tell a very different story.
Looking at the titles for these vehicles, virtually all the rough ones are bought and repo’d within a year’s time. Low savings and a quick dose of unemployment will do that to those living it up. The ones that had long periods of ownership really break my heart. Folks that kept their cars well kept for ten, even fifteen years, can find themselves behind the eight ball of a terrible economy.
Medical expenses bring down a lot of these people. You can often see the unpaid hospital bills, pills, and test results that put them in the American poorhouse. Many of the dealers are dealing with the effects of these situations. Situations like these, and my own distaste for financing, are what kept me a strictly ‘cash’ dealer for the well to do until October of last year.
Anyhow, we’ve prepared well for the sale and the dealer interest has turned into a swarm. Cars are being started up. Wholesalers are calling their used car sales managers. Retail owners are checking to see what cars are worthy of their clientele. The first vehicle sells strong. A 2008 Chrysler 300 goes for $2700 above the reserve and the rest becomes the automotive version of a bull market.
Other than a tampered 1998 BMW 5-Series… that still sells at a healthy premium, fifty eight cars come and go through the auction block within a matter of thirty-five minutes. By the time the 7th Ford Taurus roles through, we’ve managed to sell all but two vehicles. Only a Mazda that the bank was buried in and a Honda crotch rocket that was customized by it’s owner pre-repo, keeps the sale from being a clean sweep.
We shake hands. Enjoy a few conversations. Take care of a lot of checks and titles, and close shop. The sale is over before 4:30 and by 5:30 we’re on the road. We’ll be coming back to do it all over again in two weeks