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Car dealers are moving into the digital era

William Miller & Renaldo de Jager, co-founders of auction.co.za

More and more major services are moving online, reducing the need for fixed business spaces with costly overheads. Not that long ago, shopping for groceries, booking holidays and banking would all have had to be conducted face-to-face in a physical building with the help of salespeople. It is now possible to do all these tasks online, if you choose.

William Miller and Renaldo de Jager are co-founders of a pioneering online auto auction platform: auction.co.za, launching Monday 3 September. The site offers a new trading platform to buy and sell used cars in a reputable space.

According to De Jager, technology is dramatically changing the way we do things ‒ including buying cars.

“There are, of course, still people who want to go into a dealership for an idea of sight, feel and touch. But in most instances these days, people have already done their research online and they know what they’re looking for. They just need a person to facilitate a transaction for them. This is a very different scenario from 20 years ago when salespeople had the opportunity to talk you into buying a brand.

“The new portal is designed in such a way that dealerships and corporate fleet managers will also be able to source vehicles and dispose of stock,” he explains.

De Jager notes that it wasn’t that long ago either that if you wanted to get a taxi somewhere, you’d have to pick up the phone, call a company and “hope they rock up on time”. Now, you just open Uber, Taxify, or the like, and “you’re on your way”. It might also seem like a lifetime ago that you couldn’t just buy any kind of ticket (movie, theatre, flights, and more) online in a matter of seconds.

With 11 years of experience behind them, Miller and De Jager already run two successful online businesses: DealersOnline and OnlineTrucks. Over the years, the pair have matured their technology, infrastructure and business model in such a way that they can now bring this new online auto auction service to the South African consumer.

What makes auction.co.za different is that it is completely transparent, offering a safe environment for both buyer and seller. If there is anything wrong with a car, this information is included in the vehicle’s profile so that potential buyers can make an informed decision.

“When buying any second-hand vehicle, you need to know its history ‒ where it’s been, what's been done do it, whether or not it has been in an accident, and how much money it will cost you to keep it on the road. You want sight of the service book and full history before you agree to purchase. You also need to be sure there is no debt attached to the vehicle,” says Miller.

“We do an independent inspection and tell you what we found out about it before you buy it. This is essential as a lot of damage to cars can’t be seen with the naked eye but can cause the buyer issues down the line. Eventually, things will start going wrong.”

While safety in any large purchase is paramount, what makes this product innovative is that consumers are able to participate in auctions from their desktop or cellphones, with the convenience of financing, insurance and other services all conducted through the platform.

Miller adds: “We find that customers are happy to login from wherever they are, provided the process is clear and fair. We charge a set fee to facilitate sales. We don’t buy cars and sell them on for a profit. But this isn’t the place to look for bargains either. Rather, it’s about getting a good car at the right price.”

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