Tim Bowers, president and CEO of Houston Auto Auction, is one of the newest members of IARA’s board of directors.
Bowers was raised in the remarketing industry. His father, James Bowers, started Houston Auto Auction back in 1964. The younger Bowers was born the following year and spent all of his live watching his father work hard to build the company.
“I grew up in the business,” Tim Bowers said, noting that he and his brothers washed cars, learned how to do condition reports, drove transport trucks and worked as auctioneers. “Some of my employees don’t understand that,” he said. “I’ve done everything that I’m asking them to do.”
Bowers understands what his employees go through and he’s proud of that. He also strives to understand the needs of his customers. To aid in this goal, he and another one of his employees are CAR certified. He also plans to have three additional employees complete IARA’s Certified Automotive Remarketer (CAR) program soon.
“I think it’s extremely important that people who are going to be handling commercial- and industrial-type accounts understand what the fleet remarketing person is always thinking and what they’re dealing with on a daily basis, what they need, and all the different marketing channels they use. That’s why IARA is such an important organization,” he said.
Going into adulthood, however, Bowers took a different career path that is probably different than most of his customers and employees. He graduated from law school in 1992 and practiced until about 1999. During that time, he made extra money by helping out with the family auction business. But his father began experiencing health problems and asked Tim to get back into the business full time.
While considering whether to return to the family business, Tim Bowers thought about the friendships and relationships he had built growing up with the auction, including car dealers and others in the industry. ”I thought, ‘Yeah, if I can get away from lawyers and judges and get back around people I really enjoy being around, I think I do want to get back in that business.'” He returned and went on to become company president in 2000 while his father was still CEO, and he took over as CEO after his father died in 2005. “It’s been a good business for the family.”
As CEO, he continues to use what he considers his main gift: the ability to build and maintain relationships with clients by understanding what they need. “That’s one of the reasons I think IARA is so beneficial to the industry and to people who really want to understand what remarketers need in our business and what those people really need out of us auctions and people who sell their vehicles. That’s something I’ve always considered my strong point as a businessman: understanding what those people want and delivering it. That’s pretty much what I do.”
Following and understanding industry trends is also something he does, and he notes, “It’s all about embracing technology and new ideas now.” He mentioned the May 2017 auto auction accident in Massachusetts in which three people died after an auction employee lost control of a vehicle and struck people inside the business.
In part because of that incident, Bowers has considered moving to a “postcard sale” in which no cars would be driven through the lanes, and dealers would simply view photos of the vehicles. Technology has made condition reports more reliable, so dealers can rely on those reports, and if the reports show accurate grades, the dealers don’t have to see a car cross the block. They can bid on a postcard sale with the ability to purchase a post-sale inspection after the fact, Bowers said.
“It’s just such a big hazard, you’ve got 2,000- to 3,000-lb objects going through lanes with 400, 500, or 600 dealers walking back and forth. It’s a very dangerous situation,” Bowers said. “That’s always in the back of our minds: somebody getting injured or killed in the lanes. So we’re doing everything we can to make the lanes safe and thinking about what’s going to happen six months from now, a year, or five years out, thinking about what we can do to make it safer. I do think the industry at some point is going to move to a postcard-type sale where we’re not moving vehicles through the lanes and taking that risk.”
Bowers believes his and older generations must accept new technology. “Some pretty amazing technologies have come out of our business such as real time Simulcast, online vehicle valuation, Auto Grade, and multi-listing platforms to name a few. It's pretty amazing stuff, and it's constantly being upgraded.”