Manheim, the nation's largest auto auction company, is unbundling services that it had offered only on vehicles that dealers bought or sold through its auctions.
The company will offer vehicle acquisition, inspection, reconditioning, transportation and other services a la carte, whether or not dealers bought at one of its auctions, Manheim North America President Janet Barnard said.
Barnard said the change is an acknowledgement that fees to buy and sell vehicles on online-only platforms are "considerably less" than fees charged at physical auction sites and that some customers might use those platforms and buy other services elsewhere.
The new approach lets dealers buy just the services they want.
With the change, she said, "The more services they buy, the better it will be in terms of pricing, but a customer ends up getting a customized solution while we still keep our processes very standardized and predictable."
All services will not be offered at all locations, she added.
As an example of the new approach, Barnard cited a roughly yearlong test Manheim conducted with Sonic Automotive Inc., the nation's fourth-largest dealership group, in Denver.
During the pilot, Manheim buyers purchased 250 to 300 used vehicles for Sonic's Don Massey Cadillac Lone Tree, near Denver, and reconditioned the vehicles to retail ready.
Barnard said the group that bought vehicles for Sonic was created for that purpose and separated from Manheim's auction staff. She said the buyers purchased vehicles, mostly online, and did not have any advantage over other buyers.
When buyers placed bids remotely for Sonic, the name of the bidder that was visible to other bidders online and on monitors in physical auction lanes was Sonic's Cadillac store, she said.
"There is transparency," Barnard said. "They bought the vehicles that Sonic wanted within the price range that Sonic set."
That pilot ended in 2014 and did not include Sonic's EchoPark stand-alone used-car stores in Denver, said Jeff Dyke, Sonic executive vice president of operations.
At least not yet, he said.
"We're working on a program with Manheim that I'm not at liberty to talk about just yet that could include EchoPark down the road," he said.
Dyke said the next program with Manheim should start this year.