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A growing number of manufacturers have chosen Dealer Auction as their primary channel for offering used vehicle stock to their retailer networks. We caught up with three early adopters of the platform – Simon Lewis, Remarketing Manager at Nissan Motor GB; Darren Nicholls, Manager of Internal Sales and Used Vehicle Remarketing for Renault Group; and Paul Stibbe, Head of Remarketing for Mobilize Financial Services – to find out more.

Nissan Motor GB, Renault Group and Mobilize Financial Services are three brands united by an alliance and with an obvious connected interest. While each operates independently and has autonomy regarding how it chooses to execute its respective strategy, the three brands collaborate closely in the spirit of efficiency and customer experience when it comes to remarketing.

Simon Lewis says Nissan’s remarketing activities are aligned with two key objectives; a view shared by Darren Nicholls.

“Firstly, it’s about residual value protection and making sure we have control of what is arguably the largest source of Nissan vehicles back into the used car market,” Simon comments. “These are 18-24 month old vehicles and the best available stock for our franchised retailers. Keeping those vehicles within our network is important for several reasons, not least their role in retaining customers over multiple vehicle cycles.

“It’s also a cash generator for the business, the third largest contributor to the bottom line after new car sales and aftersales parts.”

While the vehicles Mobilize Financial Services – the captive finance provider to both Renault Group and Nissan GB – are typically older and have a higher mileage at the point of de-fleet, Paul Stibbe agrees his operations are guided by the same purpose.

“From a risk point of view, we need to get back our residual value. That’s paramount,” says Paul. “But we then want to remarket vehicles back to our network because that creates a new customer and a new finance sale opportunity. Ultimately, the more we can sell into the network, the better it is for everybody.

The three brands share a closed network within the Dealer Auction platform, where stock is made available to their franchised network on a timed auction or ‘buy it now’ basis.

“A closed network allows me to manage the residual value of vehicles. It means I know who we’re selling to, and I can trust their intent, and that they’re going to do the right thing by that vehicle and the brand,” comments Darren. “Our retailers represent the brand for us. They’re going to customers with the best product they can.”

Simon agrees: “Our franchise partners have invested heavily in the brand and it’s only right and proper that we support them and help them achieve a return on that investment. Our job is to ensure reliable access to the stock they need, and if we can help them do that ahead of their competition then we are right to do that. We’re protecting our brand and ensuring our retail customers have access to the stock they want through the trusted brand network.”

Longstanding partnership

The Renault/Nissan/Mobilize Financial Services relationship with Dealer Auction stretches back some seven years, and the combined closed marketplace was one of the first such networks to open on the all-new Dealer Auction platform that launched on the back of the joint venture formed between Cox Automotive and Auto Trader.

Darren tells the story: “We were early adopters of digital channels, operating our own online sales in partnership with Manheim alongside our traditional physical auction programme. Renault first, and then Nissan joined us after the alliance was formed. I think it’s fair to say, in the early days there were a lot of manual interventions needed and many sales were actually completed over the phone rather than through the platform. But it was an exploratory time, and all sides were finding their feet with trading online. This experience proved retailers were willing to buy in this way however, we learned a lot.

“When the ‘new’ Dealer Auction launched, we migrated over to the new platform without hesitation. It offered a much slicker way of giving our retail networks access to our vehicles, plus a bunch of other functionality that benefits them.”

“It’s an interesting time for retailers,” comments Paul. “They need to be ‘on it’ all the time, it’s easy to miss stock if they’re not. The way we’re set up with Dealer Auction makes this an easier task for them to manage. Alerts mean they know when stock is added, plus the filters make it simple for them to be made specific. Mixing in ‘buy it now’ with the timed auctions helps achieve some balance. The platform has levelled the playing field too. Gone are the days where a few retailers may have the advantage over their peers due to personal connections.”

Multichannel approach

The three brands still have a multi-channel approach to remarketing, but the majority of vehicles today sell through Dealer Auction.

Paul explains: “Most vehicles coming from Darren and Simon’s fleets are between three and 18 months old, in a predictable condition and retailers are really comfortable buying in this way. The speed at which vehicles sell now is fantastic, with most selling on the same day they are added to the platform. That’s a huge benefit to both us and the retailers.

“The vehicles Mobilize Financial Services bring to market are typically older and have the inevitable wear and tear you’d expect. We do refurbish where that makes commercial sense and the vehicles that aren’t appropriate for refurbishment are offered in the open market. However, through Dealer Auction, we offer these vehicles with a damage appraisal as part of the ‘preview buy’ programme and it’s been interesting to see that around half of these vehicles are snapped up by our retailers.

“I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, the current market means retailers are more open-minded than usual to older, higher mileage vehicles. But secondly, I think it’s because the Dealer Auction platform makes it so easy for them to find, assess and buy these vehicles. I know many buyers are now using Dealer Auction to buy from additional sources outside of our closed network. They’re already in the platform, this means more Renault and Nissan vehicles finding their way onto our franchised retailers’ forecourts, so it’s good for all of us.”

Appetite for innovation

The dynamic partnership between Dealer Auction and the client team is driving innovation in multiple ways, from technology to strategic partnerships.

The Renault/Nissan/Mobilize Financial Services closed network recently welcomed an additional stock source into the closed network in the form of Onto, an EV subscription provider. Renault vehicles de-fleeted by Onto – typically Zoe models – will be first offered to franchised retailers ahead of them reaching the open market.

Darren explains: “This arrangement makes sense for all sides – it’s a win-win-win. The arrangement realises the best prices for Onto, retailers get the first refusal on prime stock and we both gain the opportunity to win another customer.”

On the back of the success of this partnership, agreements with other fleet operators will likely follow.

The team are also developing the platform further to enhance the user experience and further drive efficiencies in the remarketing cycle.

“Technology is allowing us to accelerate the process in more and more ways,” says Simon. “We’ve already connected to the de-fleet process so that photographs and condition reports can be used, saving duplication and time. Give or take, if we choose to, we can make a vehicle available to retailers as soon as it’s processed at the de-fleet stage. That’s a significant timesaving.

“We’re also exploring the use of self-serve apps to compress the cycle even further. Customers doing their own condition report helps them with the handover and settlement process, which means refurbishment decisions can be made and parts ordered before the vehicle is physically received. Resulting in vehicles being valued, marketed and sold faster than ever.”

People, not just tech

So, what is it that has made this partnership an enduring one? The answer can be found in both people and technology.

“Our relationship is very much a partnership,” concludes Simon on behalf of his colleagues. “Obviously, the product and performance are essential. And we’re happy with that. The technology is proven, the architecture and platform that’s come on the back of the joint venture is robust. Class-leading even. We can be agile and feedback from the retailer network is good. They like the experience.

“But as important are the people. We very much see the Dealer Auction team as an extension of our own. They understand our business and our customers and work hard to strike the right balance. And their default position is to do the right thing. That’s a valuable commodity in an ever-changing world.”

Paul Stibbe

Head of Remarketing for Mobilize Financial Services

Simon Lewis

Remarketing Manager at Nissan Motor GB

Darren Nicholls

Manager of Internal Sales and Used Vehicle Remarketing for Renault Group

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