A few years ago, predicting that consumers would buy dealerships' new or used vehicles from photos and descriptions on Internet pages, would have: (a) brought forth the men in white jackets, (b) caused uproarious laughter or (c) generated $14 billion in sales.
Choosing (c) would place you among the thousands of automobile dealers who have already logged on to eBay Motors, a growing auction marketplace for selling vehicles and, more recently, auto parts and accessories.
Rob Chesney, director of eBay Motors, says it has sold more than 1 million vehicles since 2000.
Website www.ebaymotors.com averages 30,000 vehicle listings a day. A vehicle is sold every minute. Each vehicle's page averages 125 lookers and 10-12 bidders. Dealers are selling the majority of the vehicles.
Many of them attending an eBay convention in San Jose cite increased profitability and new-age automotive marketing as reasons for their involvement.
eBay touts these other advantages:
- 10 million nationwide visitors, most computer savvy.
- Reaches beyond home markets.
- Flat fees: $40 to list, $40 when sold.
- Variety of vehicles: new, used, vintage, classics.
- No seasonality: it's always summer somewhere in the U.S.
Interested dealers might spend time online to evaluate whether eBay Motors is right for them. Here's a guide to do that:
Step 1: Go to www.ebaymotors.com. Look around the home page. See how it is organized. Check out sections that are listed and other information that's available. Get a feel of what's there. It is the front door of a digital dealership.
Step 2: Click on car brands. Pick a model, style, year, color or equipment. See what is being sold today, what has been sold and for how much.
Look at buyer feedback about sellers' reputation, reliability, dependability, services and response to inquiries. It's like a customer satisfaction index report.
Evaluate the reserve price, length of the auction, firm price, delivery and vehicle inspections and guarantees.
Step 3: Check out the digital showrooms. Presentation is important. Several photos with the right words are vital to grab the shoppers' attention and sway them to bid or buy. For presentation tips, eBay Motors has listing specialists, to help.
Auction 123.com is one of them. Started four years ago (see sidebar on preceding page) shortly after eBay Motors began operation, this company has photographed, provided copy and created web pages for hundreds of dealers around the country.
Another supplier, Car Think, offers software that lets computer-literate dealers utilize the services of eBay Motors as well as other online auto sales sites including AutoTrader.com, duPontregistry.com, Automart.com and Cars.com.
Becoming an eBay Motors seller is a simple process. Getting set up correctly will take some time and effort.
Most bidders and buyers are computer literate, e-Bay veterans and impatient. They expect immediate answers to their questions via phone or email.
Dealers who are serious about an eBay Motors venture should assign a responsible employee to monitor the website and phone lines to answer questions on a regular basis.
Boy Entrepreneur Starts eBay Auto Listing Service
By Marty Bernstein
Auto dealers using eBay Motors have learned (many of them the hard way) that an attractive, colorful and well-designed web page with various vehicle photos and descriptive copy aids the bidding process.
But as one dealer says, “It's not something we know how to do.”
He and other dealers rely on Auction 123.com, a firm that employs dealer assistants to digital photograph vehicles, write copy and integrate the information into a web page.
What many dealers don't know is that Auction123's founder is a 13-year-old boy. Robbie Basha started the business when he was nine.
Auction 123 has had an amazing growth, shooting more than 165,000 vehicle web photos for dealers and averaging about 5,000 a month. It is a multi-million dollar business.
How did Robbie get his start? It began with an eBay purchase.
“There was this new game from Japan I wanted, so looked it up on the Internet and found it listed on eBay in Japan,” he says. “I got my Dad to open an eBay account with payment process and ordered the game. It only cost $15.”
When it was delivered, Robbie took photos of it with his new digital camera. He then sold it on eBay for $80, making a $65 profit.
Robbie convinced his father, Robert, to buy several other games not sold then in the U.S. at that time. “We bought a lot of them and all sold for a lot more than we paid," Robbie explains.
One day Robbie was with his father when Robert took his car to Mercedes-Benz of Miami for service.
“Someone at the dealership was a friend of my father's and we told him about the games we were selling on eBay,” says Robbie. “He said he should let us list cars on eBay motors for him to sell. I'm really into cars and I like photography, so I began taking the pictures of the cars.”
Mercedes-Benz of Miami was the first customer, and remains one.
Robbie's dad no longer works in the water-sports and boating industry. He now devotes fulltime to Auction 123, as does one of Robbie's uncles.
In addition to office staff, there are 100 people around the country who take car photos for the company's dealer clients.
Robbie often teaches new photographers how to shoot the best pictures for eBay.
His rules are simple:
“Always include at least eight views of the exterior, seven of the interior with tight cropping for maximum impact. Take a shot of the odometer and VIN tag. Keep people, shadows and other objects out of the photo. Try and shoot the car in front of the dealership, getting some nice blue sky in the shot.”
Except for weekends, remaining active in managing Auction 123 on a daily basis is difficult for Robbie, who entered the eighth grade this fall. Living in California, he is a self-described sports fanatic who loves watching ESPN. He plays organized baseball and is starting basketball.
An A-B student, his favorite subject is math “because I learn something every day.”