But Hallett, noting a high-profile accident at a Massachusetts auction in 2017 when five people were killed and nine others injured, said the wholesale sector should get ahead of the curve anyway, lest it be forced to take action later.
"I know there are people in the industry and in the room who don't share my opinion," Hallett said. "However, I believe that if we don't do it ourselves, it's only a matter of time before it gets legislated, and we're going to be told to do it. And then we will have no choice."
Hallett highlighted several commercial customers who have agreed to do completely digital auctions with KAR's ADESA: Acura, Audi, BMW, Enterprise, Honda, Kia, Lexus, Prime Motor Group, Toyota and Volkswagen. He said Ford planned to pilot its first virtual sale with KAR in Boston last week.
At multiple Manheim locations, BMW Financial Services, Subaru Motors Finance, Toyota Financial Services, American Honda Finance Corp., Volkswagen Credit Inc., GM Financial and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services are all running "digital blocks," or lanes that show vehicles on large screens via simulcast, the company said.
Hallett punctuated the end of his acceptance speech with, "To be real blunt, let's stop killing people in our lanes."
At the NAAA annual convention some attendees from independent auctions who asked not to be named said they disagreed that cars and trucks should no longer be driven through the lanes. Running vehicles through lanes is a necessary part of having an efficient and thorough auction, they said.
Jeff Barber, who owns the independent State Line Auto Auction in Waverly, N.Y., said on a panel last week that he agreed "wholeheartedly" that safety should be a priority, and agreed with Hallett that the government shouldn't get involved. But he added, "I don't really want to listen to a competitor tell me what to do. But that being said, we're all trying to do the same thing because nobody wants to get anybody hurt."
Barber's State Line is the largest independent auction in New York, according to NAAA, running an average of 1,200 vehicles through eight lanes every Friday. Barber was given NAAA's Industry Pioneer Award last week, for innovations such as being the first to run a simulcast auction in 1995.
Asked if customers want physical cars to continue running through the auction, Barber told Automotive News, "Many customers do."
"If customers want them to run through, we'd do that. If they don't want them to run through, we'll honor those wishes," he said. "So we can do it either way."