Wheeling and dealing: Auto auction business keeps on trucking after takeover
Longtime general manager retains leadership -
The one-square mile that is Wood Village isnt exactly known for its hustle and bustle.
Beyond the front gate and the administrative offices of ADESA Portland, however, is a virtual theme park of automobiles specifically the repairing, reconditioning, buying and selling all shapes, sizes and styles of them. On a typical day, the 32-acre operation, built in 1995 on former Townsend Farms property along Northeast Sandy Boulevard, is a buzzing beehive of car-, truck- and RV-related activity.
Approximately 1,200 vehicles a week roll through ADESA the former Brashers Auto Auction where a team of around 180 employees assess, appraise, rehabilitate and present them for dealer-driven auction.
Its truly a multifaceted operation, notes Jerry Hinton, whos served as the facilitys general manager under both the Brashers and ADESA brands.
We do everything you can possibly do with a car under one umbrella, he says. Buying and selling, theres a finance arm, a satellite DMV facility. We have our own restaurant. We do full reconditioning, do all the body and paint work. Theres a transmission department and a parts department.
The steady hum of activity reaches a crescendo on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, when, for about three hours, dozens of company-affiliated and private car dealers converge on the multi-lane auction room at the facility. As ADESA employees drive a parade of trucks, cars, RVs and boats from seven western states through the lanes, bidders both in person and remote, via internet constantly signal their responses to the clamorous, rapid-fire auctioneers, who keep the show rolling while bids are recorded on an electronic readerboard.
Although car-buying trends and the economy can affect the volume of vehicles and bidding dealers, not much else slows the flow of metal merchandise, not even an ownership change last spring that led to Brashers Auto Auctions morphing into ADESA Portland. The second-largest auction company in the United States, Indianapolis-based ADESA completed its $283 million acquisition of Brashers in April, adding four Oregon auctions to increase its eight-state location roster to 74. The companys customer base draws from Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Alaska.
We really captured the footprint ADESA always wanted, Hinton said. They didnt have much of a footprint in the west, so (the acquisition) allowed them to capture that.
For the uninitiated, auction brokers such as ADESA act as the fulcrum between buyers and sellers from the retail and wholesale worlds.
This is where car dealers get their cars to sell to you and I, he said. We dont own the cars. We are middlemen.
Through the transition, Hinton, who also serves as a Gresham city councilor and as president-elect of the National Auto Auction Association, was retained as the facilitys manager and longtime guiding light, as were most of Brashers employees.
By and large, the staff stayed intact. The first thing, what was very important to us, was to (have) as little change as possible for the dealers, he said. From their perspective, nothing has changed other than the name. At the end of the day, what (ADESA) paid for were our employees and our relationships with clients.
Lee Porter, used car manager at McCords Vancouver Auto Center in Washington, said hes pleased to see the transition didnt affect his positive experiences with the business.
As opposed to cleaning house, they retained the people from Brashers, he said. When you do that, you dont have any of those speed bumps.
Although he said hes not a big client, Jan Weston, general manager of Weston Buick Kia in Gresham, said he typically sells 30 to 50, mostly higher-mileage vehicles, a month at ADESA.
Thats a great operation down there, and always has been, he said. As it is with any business, when you have really good people working for you, it makes a huge difference in success.
While changes in day-to-day operations are few and hard for a typical client to detect, Hinton cites ADESAs impressive digital resources as a key advantage to the ownership change.
ADESA brings to the table a database of 55,000 (dealers) worldwide that helps augment our current database, he said. That kind of internet integration is helping us keep competitive with other large operators. We can buy cars through several different formats.
Hinton was recruited by Brashers in the mid 1980s while he was a student at Brigham Young University in Utah. After he received a masters degree in business administration, the company paid for him to attend law classes in the evening.
That was always the plan, he said.
He enjoyed working under the Brashers umbrella in Wood Village, but admitted that as the fourth generation of the Brasher family took over the company the time had come for a change.
The family was getting too big, too diluted, which created an impossibility in maintaining a family partnership, Hinton noted. The ability to be up to date with internet integration, thats changing at light speed. Its so expensive. We wouldve been left behind in a few years.
Bess Wills, who as president of Gresham Ford has worked with both Brashers and ADESA auctions for years, praised the transition from Brashers to ADESA.
Its a wonderful organization, she said, adding shes happy that Hinton remains at the helm. He has great business acumen. Jerry is, ethically, one of the most honest people Ive ever met. Hes a great representative of the industry.