Is an onsite auction right for you?

Publish Date: 
Apr 24, 2014

In the dealership auctions we’ve profiled here, bidding is offered live and online. In some cases, online bidding begins days before onsite bidding. This generates increased interest regardless of the fact that only one buyer will win the bike. And once that bike is won, a dealership can have 50 or 60 people that went through the credit and application process to participate. 

United Country Bonnette Auction Co. charges hosting dealerships a 10 percent commission (passed on to the buyer) and a marketing fee, which was $7,000 for Renegade, to conduct direct mail and social media campaigns.

“Working with this auction company has been very easy,” Troy noted. “They have a clear understanding of how to set up a successful auction. They have a turnkey system and are great about guiding the dealership on our responsibilities. They do most of the preset work and promotion, and then manage the auction the day of the event.”


The Renegade who has it made: Kate Ribar

Onsite auctions: Reduce inventory, increase traffic and expand your customer list

But auctions also take work, so dealers must weigh the benefits against the effort. Here are some things to consider:

  • Inventory: An auction needs a lot of selection to generate maximum sales and buzz, but there is no magic number. Auctioneer Barbara Bonnette recommends dealers have at least 75 vehicles to hold a successful auction. Renegade H-D’s Kate Ribar said, however, that 50 is enough and also is easier to manage.
  • Timing: Sales timing rules apply. Host auctions earlier in the riding season, as it’s harder to sell a motorcycle or ATV when the winter clouds are rolling in. But beware of the summer heat: It’s also hard to get bidders to wait outdoors when temperatures are very high or very low.
  • Expectations: Understand clearly what you want out of the auction going in, and be realistic with your expectations. Vehicles may sell at or near wholesale prices, although some may do much better. Factor in other benefits, including door swings, leads, trade-ins and goodwill.
  • Market area: Bonnette said a dealership should have a market area of at least 75,000 for a good powersports auction. Renegade H-D’s market is about 76,000.
  • Staff time and training: You must keep online listings up to date ahead of the auction. Also, train sales staff to encourage bidders to pre-register.