It's 9:15 a.m. and Joe Parent is at his dealership desk in Lima, OH, reviewing a list of vehicles he's sending to a Fort Wayne auction for consignment.
Parent, used-car manager for all four Tom Ahl dealerships, also is preparing to bid on Chrysler Financial off-lease vehicles in Detroit as well as check auction activity in Florida — all without leaving his desk.
He does that through Manheim Auction's online simulcasting. It allows dealers to remotely bid on and buy vehicles moving through live auction lanes. Dealers purchased more than 42,000 vehicles that way last year through Manheim.
“I'm hoping to buy a few today,” says Parent, as he clicks to the Detroit auction on his computer. While waiting for bidding to begin, he opens the Orlando simulcast feed and watches as a red '02 Dodge Viper GTS goes for $57,400.
Launched last year, Manheim's Simulcast Auction lets dealership personnel participate in the auction almost as if they were right at the lane. The technology lets dealers at their desks see and hear all of the live action.
As soon as a bid is made, either at the lane or online, the information scrolls real time down the screen. It's fast and there's no time disadvantage for the dealers buying online.
Manheim currently has simulcast capability in 305 lanes at 70 of its North American facilities.
Parent opens an electronic industry report. “I went through the list this morning and flagged all of the vehicles I'm interested in,” he says. Of 193 vehicles offered, he was interested in 10.
The bidding in Detroit gets started. A couple of vehicles into it, Parent says prices “are going high today.”
He says this is an example of one of the advantages to the simulcast. “I don't waste time driving to an auction only to find the market is high and come back with nothing.”
He bids on a '02 Chrysler PT Cruiser. Bidding starts fast, but ends quickly as the dealers refuse to go higher than $7,300. The list price is $8,000 and that's what the auctioneer asks.
Parent then begins bidding on a Voyager minivan, but isn't fast enough. “I was too late on that one,” he says. “This auctioneer isn't big on waiting.”
There are disadvantages to not physically being at the auction, Parent notes. “Not actually seeing or touching the car, and not being able to hear the engine can be a problem. And it's hard to determine the quality of any previous repairs.”
But he trusts the Manheim auctions “because they disclose everything in great detail.”
Online advantages are obvious. Parent takes a phone call, answering questions about the cars he's sending to the Fort Wayne auction. Meanwhile, he's bidding on a Dodge Ram. He clicks the green bid button a couple of times and ends up with the winning bid — while still on the phone.
When he first started using the simulcast system, he admits the toughest aspect was keeping track of the auction while handling interruptions at the dealership. He'd sometimes accidentally click the “bid” button, but was able to undo the mistake in time.
Now used to the multi-taking, he says, “I'm able to stay here and manage the departments better and help out on getting deals done.” His desk is in the open in the Chrysler Dodge showroom. There's no door to close, and there are inevitable interruptions.
Parent never loses his focus while helping sales people close deals, or discussing with owner Tom Ahl how best to handle a customer.
At one point there's a stretch in the Detroit auction lane of almost 30 vehicles with some sort of damage. Parent isn't interested in them. “This happens at every auction — they run these vehicles together,” he says.
Usually, he uses the time to get up and walk the lot and visit the service department. Today, he calls the Fort Wayne Auction to make sure everything is set for his vehicles.
Parent says it's valuable to be able to hear the auction online. Because he knows most of the auctioneers (he's been attending auctions for 17 years) he's able to tell by the inflections in their voices whether someone is bidding seriously or if there is room to maneuver.
Often, the auctioneers will communicate to him. A couple of times, the auctioneer could be heard urging Parent to bid. “Come on Joe, click that button!”
Parent often clicks on to two auctions at the same time. He periodically checks action elsewhere while participating in the Detroit auction. “I like to watch even if I'm not buying,” he says. “Especially the Fort Wayne and Chicago auctions — I can see what the market is doing and can plan accordingly.”
By the end of the bidding, Parent has bought five of the 10 vehicles he wanted, while never leaving his desk.
“Not a bad day,” he says.