A Day in the Life of an Auto Dealer
It is a brisk fall morning, the sun is not up; I head to meet a client that was taking me on a field trip to the auto auction. His first question to me was, “Why do you want to do this?” My response was, we insure a ton of used car dealers both wholesale and retail and I want to be able to understand their challenges and struggles so that I can help them make better decisions for their business.
We drove over 2 hours in bumper to bumper traffic up 695 to 83 to the largest auto auction at Manheim PA. I was in Aww of the number of vehicles and dealers already there. The auto dealers all were hoping to score a great deal by the end of the day. As we walked in the building at 9:00 the auction was in full bustle, all of the dealers are using kiosks to get their auction id badge for the day and register. The cars are already lined up into the auction lines and bidding has begun. The free apples to get your day started were a nice little wake me up. Many of the dealers had been on the road for hours before the auction. Some of the dealers fly in and Manheim arranges to provide them transportation to and from their hotel.
As we walk out on the auction floor, the hustle and bustle overwhelms you. There are 33 lines of cars that are 5 to 6 deep in each line. What seemed liked, thousands of dealers all searching for the best deal of the day. Some dealers were very specific in their requirements, looking for a specific make, model or color. Others were just looking for a deal and others were looking for anything they thought would sell at their lot. Some dealers buy from certain wholesalers and follow their lines; other dealers are running back and forth from one side to the other looking for whatever spot their eye.
The technology that is involved in the deal making process is amazing. They use their phones to scan the serial number and then it gives them the CARFAX report and the value that the car is reselling for. In 30 seconds, a dealer can have all the information that they need on an account in their hands. Dealers are on the phone asking someone else for advice; other dealers are on the internet bidding on cars in real time. The car keeps moving up the line, dealers are opening doors, popping hoods, opening hatches to get the best look of the overall vehicle. Checking out the interior, the color, the condition of the body for rust and other dents is done by the dealer in the 2 ½ minutes it takes from the time the car got in line till the bidding process begins.
I quickly learned when in the bidding line, don’t scratch your nose, nod your head or raise your hand unless you want to buy that car. I made sure that I did not make any sudden movements as the bidding started. Certainly, I did not want to be responsible for buying a car, even though my husband would not mind if I would have brought him home a Dodge Charger. Sometimes, the vehicle was pulled out of the garage and the bidding was still going on. Also, you need to make sure that you are not bidding against the auction, they will sometimes go up just to make you think someone else is bidding, so you need to be careful and watch the monitor.
At the end of our day, the dealer walked away with 5 nice cars, he separated the buy sheets and put them in a yellow envelope for a transporter he hired to take them back to his lot. Some people brought trailers to carry the cars, other had employees or friends with them to drive the cars back. Others hired transporters or towing companies to bring vehicles.
Watching the events unfold during the day, I realized a few things. One the dealership is like an assembly line there are thousands of moving parts that all work together. Secondly, watch where you walk, you will be run over. Third, I am glad to be women, the only place with a public bathroom that did not have a line in the ladies room.
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