The coronavirus pandemic dramatically altered the automotive ecosystem this spring as plants shut down, many dealerships temporarily closed their showrooms and the two largest U.S. wholesale auction companies made a near-overnight switch to digital sales.
Since the height of the virus crisis in March and April, manufacturing has restarted and dealerships have reopened.
But Cox Automotive's Manheim and KAR Global's ADESA auction units continue to sell mostly via digital. Even where physical auctions have resumed, buyers have gravitated to buying wholesale cars and trucks online.
With the shift, condition reports on vehicles — the documentation many buyers rely on to make their bidding decisions — have become all the more crucial. And those buyers, along with some auction executives, say the reports must improve and become more reliable.
"We have to be better at condition reports, which we're working really hard at, and we're investing in," Cox Automotive CEO Sandy Schwartz said in June. "We have to be better at representation of cars, which I feel we've done over last year and we're working really hard at today."
The improvements need to include better pictures and descriptions of the cars, Schwartz said, as well as better guarantees that would allow buyers, when they purchase vehicles that prove to be not what they thought, to be able "to unravel that sale."
KAR also is underscoring the importance of good condition reports.