Thursday, November 1, 2001

Palm handhelds go to work at auto auctions

PALM IN THE REAL WORLD

By Steve Niles

If you want to experience a fast-paced environment, pay a visit to the nearest car auction. Of course, unless you're a certified dealer, you'll be kicked out immediately, so you'll have to take my word for it. They're kinetic.

Car auctions are where car dealers gather to buy and sell used automobiles in order to stock their lots or trade inventory. To find the cars they want, they've got to be quick. Bidding takes place at a lightning fast pace, with the time between a car hitting the auction block and going to the highest bidder lasting between 30 seconds to a minute.

I recently had opportunity to speak with Mike Kelly, a dealer in Mobile, Alabama. He described the typical car auction as about 30 baseball-fields worth of real estate transformed into a parking lot for, at the high end, up to 15,000 automobiles. Kelly works for a wholesale and retail company that supplies eleven different dealerships with vehicles. These dealerships give Kelly their wish lists--the cars they're looking for to stock their lots--and it's Kelly's job to attend car auctions throughout the country in order to fill these orders.

With acres of ground to cover and thousands of auctions lasting seconds at a time going off at intervals throughout the day at various locations on the grounds, it's vitally important to be in the right place at the right time. In order to make the proper bid, it's also vital to know exactly how much the individual automobiles you're after are worth.

The first step in the process takes place at the office. Kelly first consults the Internet at his office in order to find the section numbers for the cars on his various shopping lists. Armed with this knowledge, he sets out to the auction to scope out the vehicles. To determine the vehicles' worth, it's necessary to look up each vehicle in valuation guidebooks. The typical dealer might need to lug around three to five different books to cover all the different vehicles he or she is checking out. However, Kelly and many others like him have discovered a better solution.

Manheim Market Report software

Kelly downloads all the information he needs right to his Palm Vx handheld utilizing a software program developed by Manheim Auctions (at http://www.manheimauctions.com) called Manheim Market Report. Now Kelly can carry several guidebooks worth of valuation data in his pocket, conveniently stored on his Palm handheld computer.

Manheim runs 85 wholesale auto auctions at fixed sites throughout the country. The company developed their valuation guidebook software for Palm OS 3.0 or higher with the aid of thirty developers and contractors. The Manheim Market Report software is free to subscribers to Manheim Online at http://www.manheim.com. According to Joe Luppino, Chief Operating Officer of Manheim Interactive, Manheim chose the Palm OS platform for their solution because of its dominance in the handheld market.