Has coronavirus made digital-only car auctions the new normal?

During the coronavirus pandemic, car dealerships and auction sites closed their doors, as did all non-essential businesses.

However, while car dealerships welcomed customers back in June, it has been a little more complicated for auction sites. These auctions are key to the motor trade as it’s where many used car dealers pick up stock for their forecourts.

But with the government advising against mass gatherings, sites have remained closed with the major players moving to online. With fewer cars to choose from and dealers anticipating pent up demand releasing post-lockdown, auction sites have seen cars selling at ‘crazy’ prices.

Car Dealer magazine contacted various auction sites, who said they were reassessing the situation on a week-by-week basis, but most expected to carry on with online-only services in the near future.

Coronavirus – Mon June 1, 2020
Coronavirus – Mon June 1, 2020

G3 Remarketing told the magazine: “We’re not entirely satisfied that the safety of the team and our customers would be protected by opening the hall to a large gathering of people. We acknowledge that other centres have already opened their doors, but as the government still advises against mass events, we feel that operating a full auction and welcoming 250-plus physical buyers really doesn’t follow that advice”.

However, Aston Barclay said its sites were open for ‘collection, payment and pre-viewing stock prior to sale’, but sales remain online for now.

Some auction sites have planned for reopening sites. For example, G3 Remarketing has implemented a strict one-way system through the facility, as well as marking ‘safe bidder hot spots’ where bidders can remain in view of the auctioneer while keeping socially distanced from others.

Will online-only auctions become the new normal? All the auction sites that spoke to Car Dealer magazine said no, as many buyers still prefer to inspect vehicles before bidding, particularly when it comes to older, more damaged stock.

That being said, dealers have embraced the digital platforms at their disposal, with all auction sites reporting massive increases in the number of people bidding on online lots.

Like all industries, the motor trade has undergone massive changes to stay afloat during the pandemic. Yet it seems that despite online sales booming – even before the pandemic – as life returns to normal it’s likely many buyers will prefer to see stock before buying.