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Whilst the new car industry remains in decline, industry analysts say sales of used cars in recent months have improved and look to be getting better at the start of a new year.
According to Rob Barr, group communications director Manheim, franchised and non franchised dealers and the general public have been very active in January at their auction centres up and down the country.
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He said franchised dealers seem to be taking the view that if they cannot readily sell new cars they can sell high quality used ones. Non franchised dealers look to have cleared most of their long standing stock by the end of 2008 and are now looking for replacement vehicles.
Private customers, driven by market conditions, also seem to have found the confidence to buy alongside ‘the trade’ at auctions. Barr said there was increasing interest from private customers, particularly for vehicles sub £3,000.
Above that figure a would-be private car buyer is more likely to go to a dealer to get their replacement car as they want to establish a link with a dealership and to sort out future servicing or any repairs.
Barr added, “It is very difficult to forecast where the UK car market will end up this year. Following last year’s fall in new car sales by nearly 12% and used car values dropping by 15% and now with the forced cut-back in production of new cars, there will be less vehicles going into the market.
"So in three years time we could actually have a shortage of used cars just at a time when the financial situation has recovered and customers will have access to more readily available funding."
Today the UK’s auction houses are also looking for ‘new traders’. Many workers will be using their redundancy pay-offs to fund purchases of used cars bought at auction for them to do some ‘wheeling and dealing’ to make a living.
In a timely manner Manheim Auctions have just invited some members of the motoring media to see their operations in Bristol, one of their 19 UK centres. Their UK sites stretch from a newly operational auction centre in Glasgow down to Saltash near Plymouth.
These centres handle over 500,000 vehicles a year and Manheim were keen to point out that each of these vehicles has two customers, the seller and the buyer.
The modern vehicle auction business is no longer full off Arthur Daleys, they are all purpose-built premises, including well staffed information and reception areas, restaurants, high tech computer aided information and bidding displays with adjacent inspection, reconditioning, valeting and transport and storage facilities.
Manheim also operates Simulcast on-line bidding via the internet for those buyers not actually able to visit the auction centre on any of the selling days. All bids are also shown on large television screens at each auction site so the buyers can see, as well as hear, what price each vehicle has reached in the bidding process. A vehicle takes less than a minute to sell.
On the day of the media visit to Manheim Auctions Bristol over 450 cars went through their two lane auctions channels in around three hours.
The Manheim Bristol centre at Ashton Vale holds three auctions a week. On Tuesdays dealers and the public can bid for cars from Fleet and Finance sources. On Wednesdays the auction is only open for manufacturer’s special events where their dealers can buy disposal stock.
The brands that use this function at Bristol are Jaguar, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Land Rover and BMW. On Thursdays the site is open again to dealers and private buyers for cars sourced from dealer part exchanges and Finance houses.
For anybody wishing to attend a Manheim auction the best place to start is by visiting their website, www.manheim.co.uk. This site lists all their auctions centres, how-to- find instructions, sale dates, catalogues, lots of advice on how to attend, how to bid and how to pay, and for dealers or would-be dealers, information about payment, credit or access to the Simulcast live on-line auction service.
For customer peace-of-mind Manheim offer their Assured 15 point mechanical check and warranty for selected vehicles. This covers the vehicle for three days after being bought, enough time for the purchasers to have it checked out independently if they wish. Each car listed in the sales catalogues also has a description of its condition, mileage and remaining manufacturer’s warranty – if any.
Manheim, which takes its name from a town in Pennsylvania USA, is part of the giant Atlanta based Cox Enterprises Inc, one of the world’s leading media companies, so you would expect their communications with their clients and customers to be first rate. And it is.
For those attending their auctions, in addition to all the information on-line, the reception area at each auction sites have easy to understand step-by-step guide booklets for business users, motor dealers, fleet buyers and for the general public. There are very helpful staff who will even show visitors around the stock lines of cars to be sold and the ‘bear-pits’ that are the auction rings.
My advice, if you want to buy at an auction, go to look first two or three times, see how it’s done, feel comfortable and get to know the ropes. Oh yes take your deposit or ways to pay plus identification with you.
For the general public attending an auction a deposit is required immediately after they have bought a car and then they have 24 hours to pay in full. The deposit is £300 or 10% of the purchase price, whichever is the greater. Payments can be made by cash or credit/debit cards but some attract a transaction fee so look at the buying guide. Cheques and bank drafts can also be used but vehicles will not be released until funds are cleared.
If a would-be buyer has the confidence to go bidding then they need to know the stereotype image of an ‘auction punter’ of days gone by has gone. The porkpie shaped hat, the sheepskin coat wearing, Glass’s Guide toting car dealer of old no longer exists.
Manheim is the world’s largest automotive services company offering a range of products to the industry. These services include Manheim Auctions and Remarketing, Manheim DeFleet Service and Manheim Retail Services. Worldwide the company handles 10 million vehicles each year, over 5.5 million annual sales and 2.2 million vehicles are reconditioned by them each year. Around the world Manheim has 125 locations operating in five continents with a business worth $59 billion and they employ 37,000 staff.
In the UK Manheim have 19 sales centres, seven of which also offer commercial vehicle auctions and the company handles 500,000 vehicles a year. They have 5,160 volume vendors, nearly 10,000 individual active trade buyers and 25,000 private buyers.
At Bristol the Manheim Auction centre in Ashton Vale covers 24 acres, has a modern reception and restaurant complex with two adjacent auction halls. The latest developments, worth £2.2 million, include building new facilities for inspections and repairs. The centre has 124 employees and will be offering for sale by auction around 60,000 vehicles in 2009.