The Human Side of Wholesale Auto Auctions

by Don Elliott on June 21, 2011

Recently, a good friend of mine passed away. JD Smith owned the South Bend Mishawaka Auto Auction in South Bend, IN. JD started the auto auction in 1985 as a very small business with only a few cars offered for auction sale.

Since that inauspicious beginning, JD’s auto auction has provided hundreds of jobs, reallocated thousands of cars, processed lots of titles, and paid plenty of local, state, and federal taxes.

JD’s other business, Bill’s City Wide Towing, complimented the car auction business, but it stood on its own. It provided towing services for local municipalities, businesses and individuals.

At JD’s funeral, several hundred people turned out to say farewell to their good friend, employer, and businessman. Several auto auctioneers “sold” one last car in his honor as part of the ceremony.

I was reminded during the funeral service about the contribution that auto auction owners and employees make to their communities. Wholesale auto auctions are, for the most part, invisible to consumers who want and need good quality used cars. New car dealers use auto auctions to sell traded vehicles that don’t fit the type of cars typically sold on their used car lots. Used car dealers depend on auto auctions as their source for inventory. Auto manufacturers, banks, and finance companies use wholesale auto auctions to sell leased and repossessed vehicles. Car rental agencies sell their off-rent cars and trucks at auto auctions. Companies are also able to sell their cars, heavy trucks, tractors and specialty equipment at their local auto auction. This ultimately ensures good used car values for consumers.

Most wholesale auto auctions are members of the National Auto Auction Association (NAAA). The 321 NAAA member auto auctions are located in major cities and towns across the United States and Canada and sell over 9 million cars each year. Tens of thousands of car auction employees provide for their families with jobs at wholesale car auctions.

Wholesale auto auctions are not open to the public. Only licensed wholesale car dealers are able to buy cars at this type of auto auction. Public buyers are generally not welcome unless specifically noted in the auctions advertising.

JD Smith was one of the pioneers who helped model today’s wholesale auto auction. He was one of the few remaining independent auto auction owners. Large auto auction chains or multiple-auction owners have absorbed many other independent auto auctions. The South Bend Mishawaka Auto Auction remains today as a locally owned and operated business with over 100 employees and is a testimony to a life well lived.

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