Since the first auto auction was held in 1938, auction owners and industry leaders have worked to develop and implement new technologies to enhance the vehicle remarketing process. Their vision and innovation have continued to inspire successive generations and has resulted in a continuous stream of products that have quickly become a staple of doing business in the auto auction industry. Leveraging these new technologies has changed the auction landscape and paved the way for continued improvements and efficiencies.

By the early 1950’s, auto auctions were sprouting up across the country, and their owners saw the need to improve their processes and enhance operations. In 1953, at the urging of those owners, Auction Insurance Agency, a company owned by Tom Adams, Sr., pioneered a unique program designed specifically for the auction industry: Payment and Title Guaranty Insurance.  Since then a family of businesses has sprung from AIA, now called AutoTec, providing a vast array of essential tools for auctions, including all types of insurance, AutoCheck vehicle history reports, Auction Access dealer registration, and many other essential services.

October 12, 1995 proved to be a historic day in the annals of automobile auction technology. On that day, in a forward-thinking partnership, Jeff Barber held the first vehicles simulcast sale at State Line Auto Auction in Waverly, New York. Cars and Trucks offered to buyers both “live” and “electronically” were processed at a General Motors closed auction. 400 vehicles were offered, and 400 were sold. Remote bidders attended via Satellite and telephonic technology. 45 cars were purchased electronically by these remote bidders.That historic sale was a harbinger of great things to come.

As the Internet developed, significant technological developments took hold quickly in subsequent years. With the backing of a partnership between ADESA, Manheim, ServNet and BSC America, Atlanta-based AutoIMS was launched in 1997, offering a secure, online system that allowed member clients and auctions to view and exchange data through one uniform platform. Today, AutoIMS connects over 650 member auctions and nearly 2,000 commercial clients, processing 4 million sold vehicle records annually which involved 40 million data transactions daily.

The first live internet auction in the industry was held in the Spring of 1999, using Online Ringman technology, which was developed by Auction Management Solutions (now Xcira) supported by ServNet Auction Group lending industry expertise. The sale took place at Pennsylvania Auto Dealers Exchange and included more than 200 fleet vehicles, drawing on-line bidders from Connecticut, Indiana, New York, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. ServNet owners were united in their enthusiasm for the new technology and worked to update their facilities to make OnLine Ringman part of their remarketing process. Thanks to a partnership with General Motors and other sellers, Simulcasting quickly became the industry standard.

Innovation gathered speed in the late 1990s. AutoTrade Center (ATC) worked closely with Auctions and American Honda Finance to launch the first closed selling platform in our industry. Autodaq was founded in 1999 in San Francisco, eventually acquired ATC and another tech company Onlane, and rebranded as OPENLANE in 2008. OPENLANE conducts internet automobile auctions and offers auto remarketing solutions to auto manufacturers, captive finance companies, lease and daily rental companies, financial institutions, and wholesale auto auctions. OPENLANE was acquired by KAR Auction Services in 2011, and over the last 12 months, has facilitated the sale of more than one million vehicles on behalf of its customers. In addition, KAR continues to develop technologies in the rapidly expanding digital space. 

In 2004, Manheim launched Online Vehicle Exchange (OVE). Since that Time, Cox Automotive has made tremendous investments through developing and acquiring technologies to build a host of services to assist in all areas of remarketing. And more recently, to offer dealers more ways to meet their buying and selling needs on their terms, Manheim launched a new OVE Dealer Direct Event sales channel. With this offering, dealers can host digital event sales using inventory on their lots, without transporting it to a physical auction location. By 2011, Manheim reported that not only had auctions in its group used the channel with success, but that independent auctions had also recorded significant growth on the site. Today, OVE is a key tool for auctions, buyers, and sellers from across the industry.

In 2006, Auction Pipeline was developed by ServNet Auctions to provide independent Auctions a joint platform for dealers across the country. In 2012, Auction Pipeline grew through acquisition and became Auction Edge, a staple technology provider for over 200 independent Auto Auctions. Auction Edge provides auctions with operating systems, simulcasting technology, and aggregated inventory sites to offer vehicles to over 50,000 subscribing dealers.

ACV Auctions was founded in 2014. An online, wholesale vehicle marketplace that provides franchise and used-car dealerships a way of buying and selling wholesale vehicles through a mobile app, AVC technology handles the arc of auction operations, providing third-party inspections, account management, title and payment processing, arbitration management and transportation.

TRADE-REV was launched in Canada in 2011 and purchased by KAR in 2014. Conceived as a way to connect dealers all over North America to make moving wholesale inventory quickly and efficiently, TRADE-REV’s technology is a vehicle appraisal and auctioning system designed as a mobile business partner. Sellers can launch live, 45-minute, real-time auction from the palms of their hands, and buyers and sellers complete the selling and buying as well as the check-out and financing process on their mobile devices.

With an industry-first nationwide run list, live virtual lanes, and an hourly auction channel with set ending times, EBlock debuted in 2016. The platform reduces the effort it takes for dealers to buy and sell inventory no matter where—or when—they want to transact. Early in 2020, Auction Edge announced a partnership with EBlock giving buyers at independent auction a new range of fresh dealer inventory, and allowing independent auctions to capture, inspect and sell dealer vehicles without moving the cars to the auction.

Innovation continues to drive the growth and evolution of the auto auction industry. While there are many technology companies targeting the wholesale automotive space, auto auctions are adaptable and have been transforming their core business model, placing a stronger emphasis on developing online tools and digital marketing channels. As the auto auction industry evolves, technology and innovation will continue to merge of virtual and traditional processes that will advance the process of buying and selling vehicles at auction.