10-year-old company adds dealer consignment to services
Displayed neatly throughout the 50,000-square-foot showroom at CrankyApe.com’s Lake Elmo, Minn., headquarters, cruisers, touring motorcycles, sport bikes, ATVs, side-by-sides and a pair of PWC sit, waiting for a winning bid. Inside the shop, vehicles are detailed and photographed in preparation for their trip to the auction block, while more vehicles ready for sale sit in storage behind the office.
A group of those vehicles will be claimed each Wednesday, and another set will wait for bids from their next owners the following week.
Approaching its 11th year in business, CrankyApe.com moves like a well-oiled machine, but that doesn’t mean the company isn’t constantly improving and innovating. Recently, the online auction company added dealer consignments to its host of services and more improvements are coming soon.
Becoming a company
CrankyApe.com was born from a discussion founders Brian Livingston and Jay Adams first had at a Minnesota Wild hockey game in 2000. Livingston had been doing some buying and selling at salvage auctions, but he was having a hard time finding buyers, who at the time were mostly dealers buying at high prices.
“We decided to put something together where we can offer the same units to some guy who wants to just do a project in his garage,” Livingston said about their business proposition during an interview with Powersports Business at CrankyApe.com headquarters.
CrankyApe.com, an online powersports auction, was launched in September 2001. Soon after, a large bank called and asked to run a pilot program with the business, and the two companies have been working together ever since.
CrankyApe.com now works with banks, insurance companies and dealers to sell motorcycles, ATVs, side-by-sides, snowmobiles, PWC, boats, RVs, trailers, commercial lawn and garden equipment and some autos in a variety of conditions through online auctions that close weekly. The company’s headquarters is its largest facility, with the extensive showroom, a detailing shop, offices and 10 acres of storage.
CrankyApe.com also boasts eight locations outside of its headquarters: Arizona City, Ariz.; Georgetown, Texas; Green Bay, Wis.; Kingman, Ariz.; Kissimmee, Fla; Michigan City, Ind.; Reno, Nev.; and Valdosta, Ga. Each has at least a 20,000-square-foot warehouse and three to four acres of storage. CrankyApe.com can sell units anywhere in the nation, except Hawaii, and it sells to the public and dealers.
“We’re different in the sense that traditionally it’s been dealer-only auctions,” Livingston said.
CrankyApe.com’s business model, which allows anyone to purchase the vehicles, provides competitive pricing for buyers and increased returns for sellers, Livingston said.
Buying from CrankyApe.com is done solely online. Each listing includes the vehicle’s make and model, year, mileage, type (as in insurance total loss, consignment, bank repo, etc.), the VIN number, a list of estimated repairs needed and a full description.
The description portion is important to CrankyApe.com, as with an online auction, most buyers won’t see the vehicle in person before they bid on it.
“I think when you have someone bidding on something sight unseen, full disclosure is really important,” Livingston said.
CrankyApe.com has even received compliments on its descriptions because they’re so specific. The company also takes several photos of each unit, focusing especially on visual documentation of any damage. Most motorcycle postings include 10-15 photos.
If buyers have access to the CrankyApe.com location where the vehicle they’re interested in is being sold, they can view it in person as well.
“On a lot of big ticket items, people will fly in for them,” Adams explained, pointing out that those interested in an RV moving for about $200,000 often want to get a good look at the vehicle before buying.
Each Wednesday, an auction closes, but vehicles are added to the site as they’re ready to hit the block, so every day there’s potential for new units to be posted. Depending on the day it is added to the site, a vehicle’s auction may expire the following Wednesday or the second Wednesday after its posting. The expiration date is clearly marked on each listing.
Auctions expire at a time specified on the listing, however, a late bidding war will keep an auction open. If a bid comes in within 10 minutes before the close of an auction, the deadline will be extended an additional 10 minutes. The 10-minute extensions will then continue until no bids have been made for a stagnant 10-minute period.
“It gives everyone an opportunity to bid,” Adams said, “so it’s more of a live auction format.”
CrankyApe.com implemented its extension policy after learning from experience and receiving feedback from its buyers and sellers. Extending the auctions gives buyers more of an opportunity to make a play for a vehicle, and it gives sellers a chance to earn more money as the bidding continues, Livingston said.
“There’s really no difference in them buying from our auction than any wholesale auction,” he said, adding that the online format also gives dealers the opportunity to research purchases and possibly locate buyers before bidding.
Once a vehicle is purchased, the buyer must arrange transportation.
“They either send a driver or set up a transport,” Livingston said.
The company lists 15 pre-approved transportation companies on its website, and a shipping estimate calculator is available on each listing, so the buyer understands average shipping costs before bidding.
Selling with CrankyApe.com
More recently, CrankyApe.com has begun consigning units for dealers.
“We’re getting a lot of requests from dealers looking to consign units,” Livingston said.
In response to those requests, CrankyApe.com started a program in which dealers can sell their pre-owned units through the CrankyApe.com platform. The company provides two models for dealers interested in the program. Dealers who are located near a CrankyApe.com location are welcome to drop off their units and fill out consignment forms on site, or they can use CrankyApe.com’s online inventory management system to register the vehicle for consignment, and CrankyApe.com will pick up the unit for an added fee.
The dealer consignment program is growing, Adams said, and CrankyApe.com is committed to its success.
“We are a really good avenue for helping them move inventory,” he added.
The goal of the program is to help dealers clear their stagnant pre-owned inventory while bringing profit from sales.
“Hopefully it helps increase the return for our dealers,” Livingston said.
Though vehicles can come to CrankyApe.com in any condition, the CrankyApe.com team works to make each sellable before it hits the auction.
“We still recondition and do our part. We do the detailing,” Adams said.
CrankyApe.com also takes all the photographs for each listing and completes an inspection for the item description.
Though many vehicles on CrankyApe.com are listed without reserves or floors, the option to set one is available. CrankyApe.com will work with sellers to set an appropriate reserve for each unit based on its condition report.
For any auction company to be successful, it has to not only find sellers, but it has to find buyers to keep the auctions moving and bring returns to the sellers.
Though 40 percent of CrankyApe.com’s buyers are dealers, the other 60 percent are members of the public. The company has focused most of its advertising online, since it’s an online company, but it also runs spots on TV and radio. One of its biggest plugs came in a feature on Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior.”
“American Chopper built a CrankyApe bike that was on two episodes, which had about 2 million viewers each,” Adams said. The motorcycle was sold in July, and $27,077 of the proceeds were donated from CrankyApe.com to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Because of its marketing efforts, CrankyApe.com now boasts nearly 80,000 registered bidders — a number that only includes those who have registered with their name and credit card number and excludes non-registered visitors the website has received.
“It just helps. The more bidders you have per auction, the better it can be,” Livingston said.
CrankyApe.com continues to listen to its buyers and sellers and acts off feedback to improve the experience for both. A couple of yet-to-be-announced improvements are even in the works for the next couple months.
“We, being all online, we try to stay innovative with our processes,” Livingston said.
With those plans in place, CrankyApe.com is hoping its 11th year will be as successful as the first 10.