Sudbury Auto Auction
The business model of Sudbury Auto Auction is simple, yet unique. Established in 1986, the company has served as wholesale automotive auctioneers in northern Ontario for more than 25 years.
Sudbury Auto Auction provides “licensed dealers, banks, leasing and financial companies with a viable marketplace to sell automobiles and is dedicated to providing a competitive energetic marketplace with quality services.” The company sells exclusive to automotive dealers and, additionally, those wishing to buy or sell in a Sudbury Auto Auction can register through the company’s website.
Sudbury Auto Auction serves as the primary business, in the business of selling, financing, leasing and dealer consigned automobiles. Secondary to that business is a public auction company known as Ontario Auctions, as a dealer-only auction and public company conducting public sales and providing automobile equipment in liquidation-type auctions. These auctions provide an opportunity for those involved to bid on items that could come from liquidation or bankruptcy situations, whereas they cannot do that in another location, and can do so here in a live open bidding forum.
Located in the largest city in northern Ontario, the uniquely situated company allows for its customers to minimize travel costs. This month, The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Dale Harnden, President of Sudbury Auto Auction, about the company’s business functions, how it plans to deter the impactful economic downturn, and its transition to online auctioning.
Avoiding the downturn
In speaking with Harnden, what may be most impressive is that the global recession has had little to no impact on Sudbury Auto Auction thus far. In fact, according to Harnden, the recession has yet to impact the company, though he believes it is just about to hit. “It is rolling into that time where we are beginning to feel the effects of it due to, first and foremost, leasing vehicles that are Chrysler or General Motors, and we are coming close to the end of those 2008 lease terms. “The supply of vehicles is dwindling and dwindling away and fewer are making it to the auction lanes because they are being bought up by the dealers in the first opportunity. The consumer has the first opportunity to purchase the vehicle and the dealer has the second [opportunity].”
Harnden emphasized that many vehicles are being purchased online prior to having the chance to go to live auction, something that is beginning to have a reflection in the auction lanes.
The powers of the Internet
Like most any business, the prominence of online sales has now taken on a greater level of importance at Sudbury Auto Auction. Quite simply, it expands any company’s buyer base numerously.
“In a market like ours where guys have to travel 200 to 300 kilometres, from Sault Ste. Marie, to North Bay, to Timmins…but by simply going online they are able to buy and sell and save time and expense of travelling, so they are able to participate, bidding on the cars they are interested in, and then they get back to work, so it is an amazing tool,” Harnden added.
“The dealer auction enables the dealers in the northern Ontario region to gain a venue to purchase vehicles without having to the travel to the southern Ontario markets,” said Harnden, “but what has had a positive effect on that too is that we broadcast all of our auctions live on the Internet through live simulcasts of the auctions, allowing purchasers from anywhere to participant in our auctions, so that is an advantage not only for dealers in regions, but dealers not in our region as well.”
Online purchasing, over the last five years, has certainly emerged as a trend for online automotive auctions and, as Harnden mentioned, is something that allowed these types of companies to significantly grow its buyer baser.
“I don’t think any of us know where [online purchasing] is going to go. If you are not participating in it, then I think you are missing out on a great opportunity, but there are very, very few independently owned auctions left in Ontario, so there aren’t many left that aren’t broadcasting their sales live on the Internet.”
Eye on the future
Sudbury Auto Auction’s successful transition to incorporate online sales cannot be ignored. With that, the company’s goal remains to grow and develop its other products and other means of revenue sources in order to create newer, more innovative ways for dealers to sell vehicles. According to Harnden, the Internet has broken down the geographical barriers in increasing web-based business, revenue and customer service.
The success of such an operation is modestly acknowledged by Harnden. “It is an interesting business. It is a unique business, and it is a changing business, but I think most of the challenge with the business is keeping up with the changing times.”