Mike Hockett Sr.: SmartLaunch can consolidate a highly fragmented used-vehicle industry.
Hence its name: SmartLaunch.
Mike Hockett Sr., founder and CEO of Auction Broadcasting Co. LLC, is testing SmartLaunch in Florida. He says he plans to introduce the system nationally in August. Hockett predicts 2,000 dealerships will use SmartLaunch by the end of 2006.
SmartLaunch is designed to aggregate the used-vehicle inventories of automakers, independent auction companies, large dealership groups and other operators of online auctions. The system then sorts and offers for sale specific vehicles to specific dealerships based on their individual sales histories, Hockett says.
Includes all brands
Unlike some competing Internet auctions, Hockett says SmartLaunch handles all brands and treats all auction companies equally.
He says the system can consolidate an industry that is highly fragmented.
"When you have an Internet auction, you're inviting the world to participate," says Hockett, who founded and then sold what now is ADESA Corp., the nation's second-largest vehicle auction company. "We're not trying to drive cars to any one brick-and-mortar auction company."
An automaker, a lender and a commercial seller of fleet vehicles are participating in the SmartLaunch test, Hockett says. He would not identify them.
Other companies have Internet platforms similar to SmartLaunch. Last year, the Manheim auction company in Atlanta opened its Online Vehicle Exchange. It enables dealers to find used vehicles offered for sale by automakers, banks, rental car companies and other dealers.
This spring, the Chrysler group launched its Used Vehicle Total Order Planning System. It helps dealerships decide which vehicles to stock by telling them the models, vehicle colors and equipment configurations that sell best in their stores and markets.
General Motors Acceptance Corp. operates Smart Auction, an Internet remarketing site for dealerships.
SmartLaunch is separate from Auction Broadcasting, but the auction company will be a customer by including its vehicles in the system, Hockett says.
Auction Broadcasting also will handle administrative duties for SmartLaunch, such as vehicle inspections and buyer-seller arbitration.
Auction Broadcasting also plans to establish and operate physical facilities for redistributing SmartLaunch vehicles, Hockett says. Company headquarters is in Indianapolis.
SmartLaunch uses inventory management software provided by American Auto Exchange of Dallas.
About 800 to 1,000 dealerships already use the software.
Those dealerships will be integrated into SmartLaunch, Hockett says. Some of those stores are participating in the test, he adds.
Bruce Thompson, founder of American Auto Exchange, says that 90 percent of the vehicles that go through his company's management system sell in 22 days or fewer.