The wholesale vehicle auction sector was steadily marching toward all-digital auctions, but the coronavirus pandemic has spurred quicker adoption of online-only sales.
Cox Automotive's Manheim and KAR Global's ADESA both announced Monday, March 16 they would go all-digital at least through April 3. But then, on Friday, March 20, KAR announced it was halting physical sales operations at all ADESA locations in North America for at least two weeks, including simulcast-only sales. The move came as states such as California and New York announced strict measures to close "nonessential" businesses.
"As permitted by local, state and provincial directives, we will maintain minimal essential operations at those locations for security purposes and to receive and release vehicles under certain circumstances," KAR said in a statement about the broad shutdown.
At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, both Manheim and ADESA auction sites and offices remained open outside of sales times for conducting business and inspecting vehicles, but dealers were not allowed in facilities during sales.
On Wednesday, March 18, Manheim announced stricter measures. It closed all auction locations to buyers and sellers, with the exception of previewing inventory and vehicle delivery and pickup — in line with local ordinances. Payments and arbitration would have to be handled in "alternate ways."
On March 20, Manheim said it would "fully comply" with California's statewide stay-at-home order but would not confirm at press time whether that meant canceling auctions. It has six locations in the state.
The auction giants had been running digital-only sales throughout the country along with in-person auctions. Last year, almost half of Manheim's sales and nearly 60 percent of ADESA's transactions were done online.
Manheim converted three of its auction sites to all-digital: Manheim Tucson, Manheim Houston and Manheim Flint.