ACV Auctions & US Auto Wholesale Market

Former Regional Field Manager at ACV Auctions

ACV Auctions

Why is this company interesting?

ACV Auctions is an online wholesale auto auction platform that helps dealers source and manage inventory, price vehicles, transfer titles, and finance and transport vehicles.

The company operates in the $230bn US wholesale vehicle market which facilitates the sale of over 22m dealer and commercial vehicles per year. Of the 22m wholesale vehicles sold annually, ~32% are dealer-to-dealer, 22% are off-auctions, and over 30% are from commercial consignors to dealers. ACV operates in the dealer-to-dealer channel and competes directly with KAR Auction’s Backlot Cars and Manheim.

ACV offers buyers more transparency and assurance when purchasing wholesale and sellers and saves sellers time and money relative to using physical auctions. ACV’s fees are ~$360 per vehicle which is about half of KAR or Manheim.

The company has over 18,000 marketplace users and is looking to onboard larger dealers to build on the base of independents. ACV is run by the company’s early angel investor who took over from the two founders in 2016.


Executive Bio

Susan O'Rourke

Former Regional Field Manager at ACV Auctions

Susan is a Former Regional Manager at ACV Auctions, the leading online auto wholesale auction platform in the US. She was a founding inside sales team member and grew through the ranks at ACV to run outside sales for regions and finally to manage the Mountain West region of the US where she was responsible for signing new buyers and sellers to the platform. Susan is now at A2Z Sync, a SaaS sales solution for auto dealers.Read more

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Interview Transcript

Disclaimer: This interview is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. In Practise is an independent publisher and all opinions expressed by guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of In Practise.

Susan, what was your role and responsibilities when you were at ACV?

I was one of the founding inside sales team members. When I started, we didn't have any outbound efforts, it was mostly inbound and word of mouth. I originally started that team with three people where we built out outbound efforts to handle the accounts that were already being serviced, but mostly by the territory managers. After that, I built out to our business development team which was outbound sales, but boots on the ground, so we called it the blitz team. In the year and a half I was there, we opened 50 to 60 new markets where we would send in a team and help train the new managers in that area and then we would simply pound the pavement. We would stop at every dealer, sign up buyers, try to get sellers, just word of mouth because it is really difficult to get in front of car dealers.

They are not very tech savvy but are very relationship based and once people are in front of them, they actually listen. After that role, I moved into a regional field manager role, which was more operationally based. I was a support to the regional sales director and the territories they looked after. I was over eight or nine territories at a time, which constantly changed due to new markets. I would help find new sellers for the territory managers, but I also handled all the issues from arbitration to transport and titles. If any buyer or territory manager had an issue, I would help them out. I would also ride along with the new sellers when they had a difficult time selling. Those were the three roles I had.

Can we walk through how you approached opening a new territory?

Typically, how it worked was the regional sales director was hired first and then they hired their territory managers. My market was the Mountain West and we first hired a regional sales director who hired four new territory managers in Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and Salt Lake City markets. After that, they work on hiring their inspectors who are pretty important because, if a seller agrees right away, someone needs to write cars, however the territory managers were also trained in writing cars, as was I, just in case anyone was in a bind. After that we focused on signing up buyers who were more inclined to sign up as there was no cost.

Dealers always look for inventory; even new car stores were inclined to buy. We focused on signing up many buyers so that we could get a feel for the platform. They could buy outside the market. We had a lot of transportation deals; we had maybe your first buy fee free in new markets to incentivize the buyer to buy. Then they tried to get two or three good solid sellers on board who could give them a good amount of inventory to start, because many buyers prefer to stay local. Transportation is a huge cost, but if the car is priced right, maybe they will go for it, but they typically want to have the car right then and there. After the territory manager had been in that market for a while, we’d send in the blitz team I was on, which was a team of four to five.

They are boots on the ground who hit the market and train the territory managers within their first month. They give the territory manager great leads and traction, then hand it off to the original field manager and territory manager who are left to understand who to target and capitalize on their success. The blitz team was really successful, once we signed up 75 dealers, but it is really about engagement on the platform. Everyone can sign up and it is free; all they need is a dealer's license. I have had sellers literally give me all their keys, so it could go either way.

Did you target the franchise or independent dealers first?

A good target for us was the single point store; an owner who had one store or another who had two to three stores. We targeted those because they never got much attention from the larger physical auctions, such as Manheim or KAR, nor did they get good lane placement at the auction. They were overlooked so we realized we could give them more eyes on their vehicle and more control. They never had the most inventory, which is why we wanted three or four of them to start. We also went after buyers who make the platform because they are the demand, after which we have to get the supply, because there is always demand for cars. We went after small dealers because the larger groups were more difficult to crack.

Why do smaller dealers not get great lane placement at physical auctions?

Depending on the auction, there are six different lanes and dealers are given certain lane placements based on their sell through percentage, how many cars they sell, as well as who they are and how many cars they have. Napleton Automotive Group in Chicago have 75 stores. They have a deal with Manheim and get to run their cars in the first lane, when everyone is there at the beginning. That gives them all the traction and the money for the cars because people buy all their cars. I don't know if you've ever been to a physical auction but it's complete mayhem, and similar to gambling. It is very high energy and wild; I would never survive.

So by the end of the lane, those cars no struggle to convert?

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ACV Auctions & US Auto Wholesale Market(November 9, 2021)

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