That means auctions must invest in data services and online auctions, Webb said. He also pointed to his company's investments into its mobile auction program, which targets dealers who might be unable to attend one of Manheim's physical auctions.
Manheim's mobile auction program, which mirrors similar programs run by other companies, sends a truck with all the gear needed to run an auction, including simulcast equipment to allow offsite buyers to participate, to a designated location, typically the back lot of a dealership with extra used vehicles it wants to wholesale.
Those auctions, which usually draw local buyers who know the seller, are a way of bringing the auction to the vehicles, instead of transporting the vehicles to the auction.
"It's become a huge growth opportunity," Webb said.
He said the conversion rate -- the percentage of vehicles sold the first time they are run down the lane -- at Manheim's mobile auctions was 70 percent in 2016, notably higher than the 55 percent rate at the company's brick-and-mortar auctions. One reason was motivated sellers: If they hold out and don't accept the top bid, they have to store the vehicle for another week.
Another advantage of mobile auctions is that they typically have only one lane. That means buyers can focus on one vehicle at a time, and there's no jockeying for the prime morning auction spots in the busiest lane by sellers who don't want to be in the less-desirable afternoon time slots.
Manheim sold about 60,000 vehicles at mobile auctions last year, up 20 percent from 2015.
"Going forward, it is likely that mobile auctions run by the auction houses will become an increasingly important method for dealers to sell and source inventory," Manheim said in its 2017 Used Car Market Report. "Online sales, multiblock selling, simulcast, other online options and mobile auctions have put all sellers on an equal footing and have broadened the whole definition as to what is a "prime' slot." c