Article

Wilde Jaguar Sells World Wide With The Help Of eBay Motors

June 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by John Carroll - Also by this author

For 12 hours a day, seven days a week, Jon Lind, eBay sales manager for Wilde Jaguar of Sarasota, Fla., keeps his cell phone on and his Blackberry at hand as he fields 15 to 20 contacts a day from a global group of buyers surfing cars online.

“I’m exposed to a worldwide market,” said Lind about his extended work hours. “For instance, I just got a call from a dealer in Germany that’s interested in one of our Vipers.” When you deal with these online buyers, the salesman added, you better make yourself available – no matter what time zone they’re calling from. 

“If I don’t answer the phone or get back to them quickly, they’ll move on to the next Viper. That’s the moment they’re interested in the vehicle,” he added.

For a car enthusiast like Lind, this is a dream job. Lind came to Wilde Jaguar with a passion for Pontiac GTOs.  His previous knowledge of that specific car has helped him talk to potential buyers about GTOs. By now, he’s also picked up plenty of lore about the Vipers, Corvettes and other specialty vehicles that are favorites with the eBay crowd. However, whenever he’s dealing with a car that he’s not familiar with, he’ll take the time to research it so he can knowledgeably discuss it with any aficionado who calls. He has loved every minute of it since he moved from the sales floor last fall. That’s good, because it’s about to get noticeably busier in Lind’s line of work.

In February, eBay Motors announced that it’s taking their online auto auction to the next level, with plans to roll out a new service called the Local Market that will let dealers post all of their used vehicles online for a subscription price of $1,000 a month and $50 for each car sold. The site, which gives buyers a chance to surf through used cars within 100 miles of home, is expected to ramp up eBay Motors’ collective listings from the tens of thousands into the hundreds of thousands. “I think it will dramatically increase our business,” said Lind. At least at the beginning, he’s going to monitor all of the eBay traffic and see if he can handle the extra work on his own.

While all of the dealership’s second-hand vehicles currently go to Autotrader.com and cars.com, Lind’s domain currently consists of the 10 to 14 classic and performance cars that are lined up at any given time for a 7-day auction at the global online car lot. These are collectible cars like 1965 GTOs, classic Novas, Dodge Vipers and Corvettes. Some late-model Jaguars or pre-owned Lexus models will go up on the eBay lot as well, particularly if they have low mileage that will make them stand out from the gridlock of online inventory.  These vehicles are the pick of the litter for some well-heeled baby boomers, many of whom are relying on the Web to point them to the kind of car they once dreamed of owning in their teens.

Most of the buyers who find Lind are longtime eBay bidders and are already comfortable with the way the system works. “That helps make eBay a good alternative sales channel for a dealer,” Lind said, “offering a chance to build up a list of references to help put new customers at ease.”  It gives the dealership a cost-effective approach to selling a collection of high-end, hard-to-find vehicles that Wilde Jaguar buys at auctions or gathers in trades.

For this group of buyers, it’s also a distinct advantage that the dealership is based in sunny Sarasota. “There’s no salt on the road in Florida during the winter,” Lind said, which is one less worry for a buyer whose biggest nightmare could be hidden rust on the chassis.

If you intend to compete for eBay customers, he added, you need every advantage you can get.   “If you’re looking for an ‘04 convertible Viper and are in touch with the technology today, you’re likely to go to eBay to start your search,” said Lind. “It’s a huge, huge market.” As unusual as the inventory may be, he added, it’s likely to find plenty of online competition from sellers looking to attract attention.  “There are 90 to 100 Vipers on eBay on any given day,” said Lind. “A buyer who’s looking to bid will call with very detailed questions about scratches, the condition of the tires, whether there was any paint work done on the car and so on.”

Each year Wilde Jaguar sells about 80 Vipers alone on eBay, with buyers clustered in places like Houston, New York and the West Coast. But, in the specialty market Lind caters to, there are some big differences from the floor traffic that most high-end dealerships attract. “I certainly like what I’m doing, but the process takes longer. Instead of seeing a customer test driving and buying on the same day, eBay customers want to gather more information before they can make a decision to purchase the vehicle…You have to work harder because they’re buying something sight unseen,” added Lind.

Many of the customers he deals with want to know more about the condition of the listed vehicles, so they request a Carfax report.  Lind posts between 20 and 25 photos of each vehicle online.  “I’ll cover all sides, front and rear, the interior, the engine, the odometer, and then, if it’s a special interest vehicle, put in more detailed pictures of the chassis.”  All the photos are high resolution, which creates an image that is typically one megabyte in size.  When potential bidders view the photos, they can enlarge them for a more detailed view of the vehicle.  It’s not exactly the same as kicking the tires on the lot, but it’s a close virtual second.

Once a customer decides to buy a deposit is made with a credit card, and Lind overnights the buyer’s agreement to the customer.  Once he receives the signed agreement with a check, he releases the vehicle to a shipper.  The time span from deposit to delivery of the vehicle is normally 10 days.

It gives the dealership a cost-effective approach to selling a collection of high-end, hard-to-find vehicles that Wilde Jaguar buys at auctions or gathers in trades.

For this group of buyers, it’s also a distinct advantage that the dealership is based in sunny Sarasota. “There’s no salt on the road in Florida during the winter,” Lind said, which is one less worry for a buyer whose biggest nightmare could be hidden rust on the chassis.

If you intend to compete for eBay customers, he added, you need every advantage you can get.   “If you’re looking for an ‘04 convertible Viper and are in touch with the technology today, you’re likely to go to eBay to start your search,” said Lind. “It’s a huge, huge market.” As unusual as the inventory may be, he added, it’s likely to find plenty of online competition from sellers looking to attract attention.  “There are 90 to 100 Vipers on eBay on any given day,” said Lind. “A buyer who’s looking to bid will call with very detailed questions about scratches, the condition of the tires, whether there was any paint work done on the car and so on.”

Each year Wilde Jaguar sells about 80 Vipers alone on eBay, with buyers clustered in places like Houston, New York and the West Coast. But, in the specialty market Lind caters to, there are some big differences from the floor traffic that most high-end dealerships attract. “I certainly like what I’m doing, but the process takes longer. Instead of seeing a customer test driving and buying on the same day, eBay customers want to gather more information before they can make a decision to purchase the vehicle…You have to work harder because they’re buying something sight unseen,” added Lind.

Many of the customers he deals with want to know more about the condition of the listed vehicles, so they request a Carfax report.  Lind posts between 20 and 25 photos of each vehicle online.  “I’ll cover all sides, front and rear, the interior, the engine, the odometer, and then, if it’s a special interest vehicle, put in more detailed pictures of the chassis.”  All the photos are high resolution, which creates an image that is typically one megabyte in size.  When potential bidders view the photos, they can enlarge them for a more detailed view of the vehicle.  It’s not exactly the same as kicking the tires on the lot, but it’s a close virtual second.

Classic cars are handled a little differently.  In the disclosure or end of description of a classic car, Lind will state that he prefers that the buyer personally inspect the vehicle or have an outside party inspect it on the buyer’s behalf before a purchase agreement.  He’ll even offer the customer the names of three people to call if a third party is necessary.  A buyer’s refundable deposit will take the car off the market. An inspection, which usually costs anywhere from $100 to $250, typically closes the deal. When buying a $40,000 car, the extra cost of a third party inspection is well worth the cost.

In most cases, the customer buys direct from the dealership. For a particularly rare car – maybe a very low mileage Viper – someone might hit the ‘buy now’ button on eBay, but that doesn’t happen often.  “Only in a rare case will a customer accept the car as described by me and what they see on eBay,” said Lind. “Before the cars go out, their comfort level for buying this car is hovering right at 100 percent.  In the past year, only one customer had a last-minute change of heart. The customer, who was a serious collector, paid for shipping and returned the ‘68 Buick Grand Sport he changed his mind about.

A serious buyer won’t waste time; neither will a serious seller.  “I’ll ask for the business,” said Lind simply. “I’ll tell them, for example, that they can buy this car from the dealership for $61,900. We negotiate the price right on the phone at that time, and we can settle on a price subject to final inspection. If it’s a very late model car, most buyers will accept and ship the car sight unseen…It’s all part of dealing with online buyers,” said the eBay specialist, who thinks the online interest cycle is shorter. His customers are staring at a computer screen; scrolling through a lineup of cars they’re after. If the buyer wants more information about a particular vehicle, he or she will pick up the phone and dial. If the customer likes what he or she hears, a deal may be closed. 

While eBay attracts the buyers, the concentration of sellers requires Lind to keep prices competitive. The dealership’s profits per unit vary based on the rarity of the vehicle. Part of the dealership’s cost on each sale includes the $90 per 7-day auction listing fee. One of the big values of selling online is that it brings virtual floor traffic. Wilde Jaguar spends nothing extra to promote the vehicles.

It definitely doesn’t hurt business that most of these eBay buyers are some of the most credit-worthy customers in the country. The type of car they’re hunting and the prices that they’re weeding through flush out any credit-strapped buyers.  “For late model Jaguar or Lexus, we can handle the financing here, and we do so on half of those cars we sell,” said Lind. For the classic cars that are going online, about one-third are financed from lenders like JJ Best and two-thirds go for cash.  “I don’t think I’ve lost a transaction because of poor credit,” said Lind.  How many dealers can say that in today’s credit-strapped society?

Vol 4, Issue 4

 

 Vol 4, Issue 4

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