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Manheim Auction Services wants to open the bidding on used motorhomes and RVs through its global wholesale marketing network.
The Atlanta, Ga.-based business, perhaps the most recognized auction company in the auto industry with 115 facilities worldwide, including 86 domestic sites, offers motorhomes on a relatively small scale at nearly all its locations.
But, according to Bill Tiedemann, vice president of auction services, “it’s basically just hit and miss right now.”
“RVs just haven’t been looked at as a separate marketplace,” he explained. “We do have regular RV auctions at our Tucson, Ariz., Fort Worth, Texas, Statesville, N.C., and Lakeland, Fla., locations. But overall, it’s a small percentage. Right now, we touch over 6 million vehicles a year, and maybe 200,000 are nonauto and truck products.”
Manheim is in the process of developing a plan that will “define a national strategy,” making RVs more prevalent and offered on a more consistent basis in the company’s nationwide auctions. In fact, Tiedemann anticipates the details being in place by the end of the year.
“We want to provide a real marketplace around the country for RVs,” he said, noting that, when warranted, Manheim would blend in marine and powersport product offerings. “We are going to talk to our customers – our sellers and qualified buyers – to see what regions offer the highest potential. We also need to look at facilities to make sure they have adequate space.
“Long term, we will want to aggregate available product and consolidate buying power to better serve the industry. Again, we need to determine where the potential sellers want us to be.”
Ideally, product will be on site, but RVs could be auctioned through “online participation,” says Tiedemann. “We want to have a critical mass of RVs offered at our auctions, either physically, or electronically. I do see us offering some product from remote locations with digital images.”
Tiedemann cited two factors contributing to the move – attrition in the leased-car market and the growing popularity of RV auctions.
“We are seeing fewer and fewer leased cars, so we have more capacity,” Tiedemann said. “We are also seeing more and more RV auctions, including with some of our competitors.”
Tiedemann acknowledged that determining prices on used RVs is a challenge.
“The National Auto Dealers Association offers a guidebook, but there isn’t a market report where you can go online and look at hundreds of recent transactions,” he said. “That will be part of our project, segregating nonauto and truck products into categories and producing a market report.”
Tiedemann said there was a possibility for consumer participation in the process if the law required it or the seller insisted on it.
“We are primarily a wholesale dealer,” he said. “We consign from a number of sources, mostly banks and credit unions and dealers, and then sell to dealers. But with repossessed RVs, we’re open to situations where an auction would be open to the public.
“We believe that providing liquidity in this marketplace will open the door to leasing and other programs. We think the marketplace will provide us, and the RV industry, with a lot of new opportunities.”