Findlay Auto Group’s auction centralizes wholesaling

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The auction includes a mobile trailer with an auctioneer inside, and large screens. Findlay built a shade structure with bleachers and provides cooling fans in warmer months. Cars are driven through a loop with someone in place to assist the auctioneer. About 200 vehicles go through the auction per week; it had a 73 percent sales rate last year.

Vehicles to be auctioned come from 28 Findlay stores in Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

The auction has helped Findlay’s used-car managers “not be afraid of a car,” Leavitt said.

“So when we’re taking a car in on trade, we’re getting that instant feedback of what our sale’s bringing,” he said.

It helps Findlay stores be “bolder” with how they transact on trades.

“If it’s not a retail unit, it’s got to go to wholesale,” he said. And “we’re not afraid of them.”

The auction originally had a preview day for Findlay stores only, but “our buying behavior was very low,” Leavitt said, pointing to the group’s then-decentralized nature.

“We’re buying from each other now at a higher rate than we ever have,” he said. “It just took some time for that culture to creep in.”

If a Findlay vehicle is going to be wholesaled, it must first go through the group’s mobile auction. If it doesn’t sell, it can be wholesaled elsewhere.

The topsy-turvy used-vehicle market of late — prices rose to record levels this spring and summer before some recent cooling off — has not hurt the group’s auction, Leavitt said.

“The market has been crazy,” he said. “And we’ve had a couple 100 percent sale days where we sold every single car for way over” Manheim’s estimated wholesale value.

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