In looking back over two decades, IARA Standards Committee Co-Chairs Matt Arias and Doug Turner can point to industry-wide improvements in how consignor and auctions document and process vehicles.
The committee has been a catalyst for clarifying and establishing standards and disclosures for all parties handling used fleet vehicle sales.
Increasing the trust level in transactions among all parties has been a major initiative of the committee. By aligning consignors, auctions, and buyers in an atmosphere of more transparency, it can boost the value of a vehicle because of a higher confidence factor in the disclosures, Arias said.
“We’ve come a long way with transparency in the last five to 10 years in terms of what’s expected from the seller,” Turner said. “Ten years ago, you didn’t tell anybody and hoped there would be no arbitration.
The goal is to be “fair, legal, and defensible,” Arias added. “We work in such a wild environment; it’s an honor and competence-based trust we put into buyer and seller. Know what you are buying and selling and do the right thing.”
Groups Work Together
The committee benefits from Arias also serving as chair of the Standards Committee of the National Auto Auction Association. That working relationship has gotten closer in the last five years, with the IARA and NAAA collaborating on remarketing standards to better align consignors and auctions. The respective committees hold some monthly meetings together to keep strong communication.
“When the NAAA adjusts policies annually, it’s good to have the voice of the remarketer and consignor,” Turner said.
“We’ve taken on some big initiatives,” Arias added. “We’ll test with NAAA the consignor initiatives and want a balance that works for everybody.”
To sum up the role of the Standards Committee, Arias said, “We are the shortstop of the team, catching stuff and helping keep it in the infield.”
The committees work together in focusing messages from consignors and auctions, separating out one-sided messages and emotions, Arias said. That helps with setting agendas and pursuing standards, especially for condition reports and grades, seller announcements, and ethical dilemmas.
“We take the consignors’ message and deliver it to the NAAA,” Turner said. “They have two customers, the consignor and the buyer. Without their voices, it’s tough to make changes beneficial to both parties. We can make adjustments as needed and create a better experience and outcomes.”
In one example, Arias cited, “I penned a position statement about CRs to level the playing field — what it is and what it’s not. It’s not a certification. That helped clear things up between what the buyer thought it was versus what it really is. It aligned expectations on the sales side.”
Arias described his and Turner’s co-chair working arrangement as “Yin and yang,” with consignor and auction viewpoints at the table. “No one issue is as cut and dried as it might seem. There’s always some kind of vetting we have to do and there has to be a process for that.”
Disclosures Build Confidence
Another ongoing pursuit is the disclosure of vehicle information: how the vehicle is checked in, damage assessments, condition reports, technology issues and vehicle history, and how the vehicle will be represented to the buy side, Arias said.
“You have to do that in a way that’s scalable up and down the auction side and with the skill sets onsite and resources you have. My biggest challenge is trying to make sure the auction is supplying the right information to the seller in addition to their information, and to sell the vehicle appropriate to expectations and disclosures with realistic floor prices. This helps the buyer with their discovery and purchase decisions.”
The committee also focuses on vehicle announcements. “The days of downplaying or omitting things has gone away, and the days of selling out in a parking lot left a long time ago,” Arias said. “Now, if there’s an issue with the vehicle it’s caught in time and makes it to the dealer, the bill of sale, and the auction line.
“When you have a seller who stands behind the vehicles, then that outsells the best well-written condition report any day of the week,” Arias added.
Arias pointed out there are three million individual collisions that happen every year that don’t get reported to data agencies, law enforcement, or insurance.
With 100% transparency, some buyers are willing to pay more for a package of vehicles because it creates more value through assurances, Arias said. “If there are any known issues, we ask the sellers to disclose. If you ask yourself, ‘should I announce this?’ You’ve already answered your own question.”
In a constantly changing regulatory, competitive, and technological environment, making sure everyone abides by the same standards, especially ones coming from professional groups like the IARA and NAAA, will ensure a more level playing field and deter alternate sets of standards set by private companies, Arias said.
“If a particular policy is difficult or unpopular, an auction could come in with a product or service to save the day,” Arias said. “That could undercut policies and standards set in bylaws and put other parties at a disadvantage. We must make sure everyone plays by the same rules.” ■
Note: This article appeared in the IARA 20th Anniversary Commemorative Issue published in November 2021.