EDITOR'S NOTE: This story incorrectly identified the number of dealers doing business with Openlane. The correct number is 25,000
Openlane Inc., an online auction company, reported record sales in 2009 despite the lousy auto market. The company expects this year to be even better.
Enhancements to Openlane's dealer-to-dealer business unit helped the company sell almost 400,000 vehicles for clients in the United States and Canada, 21 percent more than in 2008, said Openlane CEO Daniel Farrar.
A new partnership with Ford Motor Co. to sell Ford's retired rental vehicles to dealers on a private-label online channel and a program that lets independent auto auctions list vehicles for sale will help Openlane exceed last year's totals, said marketing director Ed Chuang.
In addition, Farrar said, "We have many exciting partnerships in development for this year."
Neither Farrar nor Chuang would predict sales for 2010.
In January, Ford, through Ford Motor Credit Co., began offering retired rental cars and trucks to Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers on Accelerate, a private-label auction service operated by Openlane.
Deuce Waikem, a manager at Waikem Auto Group in Massillon, Ohio, said he uses Accelerate to cherry-pick late-model, low-mileage vehicles for his Ford certified used-vehicle inventory.
Waikem said the system is easy to use and has features similar to GMAC Financial Services' SmartAuction, a competing online remarketing channel.
Through its Certified Auction Partners program, Openlane gives independent auction companies that don't have their own online remarketing channel the opportunity to list customers' vehicles on Openlane. The program gives more exposure to the auctions' inventory and provides a broader selection of vehicles to dealers who buy on Openlane.
Other recent additions include a feature that lets dealers submit and handle arbitration disputes online and a system that enables inventory management companies to submit vehicle descriptions and photos to Openlane on behalf of dealers.
In February, Openlane announced an agreement with Carfax Inc. that lets dealers obtain Carfax vehicle history reports on Openlane's Web site. The reports inform dealers about the vehicle they're considering, and dealers also can print out the reports to provide them to retail customers.
A little more than half of the 25,000 dealers that Openlane does business with operate new-car franchises.
"It was a terrific year for us," Farrar said. "We set some pretty aggressive goals, and we navigated those waters really effectively."