Pull Into the eBay

Feb 10, 2010

For speed shops, the work bay is where the action is. But many performance retailers are also finding success in a different bay-eBay.

Online auction site eBay, and specifically its eBay Motors automotive branch, has carved out a niche in the specialty automotive aftermarket. What started as a site to connect car buyers and sellers now features a thriving parts and accessories category that can be accessed by performance outlets to locate vintage and obscure parts, resell stock take-off items and track industry trends.

“The health of our site is phenomenal,” notes Famous Rhodes, director, parts & accessories, eBay Motors. “We’ve seen tremendous growth, including among our business buyers. Speed shops can certainly benefit from what we have to offer.”

And as it continues to improve its online tools-such as increased efficiency for multiple listings-eBay Motors can serve as an Internet outlet for small performance shops looking to maximize their exposure and inventory management, as it currently commands 40 to 50 percent of all online sales in the marketplace.

Automotive Destination

Were you surprised to see eBay Motors exhibiting at the SEMA Show? Rhodes says you shouldn’t have been.

“We’re out meeting our customers,” he explains, noting that SEMA attendees “are very representative of our sellers.” Company officials also presented educational programs throughout the week.

eBay Motors has come a long way since 2000, when the site began connecting used car buyers and sellers. In 2008, it surpassed 3 million passenger vehicles sold since the category was launched.

It has consistently been rated the most-visited automotive site on the Internet, owning 22 percent of all online automotive minutes, and recently rolled out a Local Market Program for automobile dealers and a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Showroom with inventory listed by General Motors, Lexus, Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

Approximately 30,000 independent and franchise dealers sell vehicles on eBay Motors through auction-style listings, best offer format or a fixed price.

Not surprisingly, all this automotive traffic has spurred interest in other areas. The site has now become a source for parts and accessories, motorcycles, RVs, boats and ATVs, and attracts more than 10.2 million unique visitors every month.

Company data shows that, on average, an automobile sells every minute on eBay Motors, and a part or accessory sells every second.

For independent speed shops, it’s the parts and accessories sales that can mean the most. Rhodes says he sees local shops not only use the site to locate hard-to-find parts for a build, but also to unload stock take-off items they’d otherwise discard or return to the customer for disposal.

“People are becoming very conscious of that,” he says of reusing like-new factory parts. “One of our customers, for example, is a speed shop in San Jose that has had success reselling factory cold air intakes that they replaced. Instead of throwing them away, they can unload it and recoup some of the value.”

Shops simply need to list the items, he explains, providing a good photo and a description of the part, the vehicle it came from and the number of miles it has on it.

Numbers Game

Rhodes, the son of 1970s dirt track racer Paul Rhodes, estimates that 8 to 10 percent of all traffic on the site is business buyers who are finding eBay Motors to be a useful tool for their day-to-day business demands.

The parts and accessories numbers the company has gathered show that activity on the site is high:

• eBay Motors has sold more than 163 million auto parts to date.
• eBay Motors has more than 9.8 million parts and accessories listed at any given time.
• The worldwide annualized gross merchandise volume for the parts and accessories category grew to $4.9 billion in the third quarter of 2009.
• From 2007 to 2008, there was a 15-percent increase in parts and accessories sales for dealers.

The growth numbers for parts sold between 2007 and 2008 also offer interesting reading for speed shops, with at least five of the top 10 biggest increases representing performance-related parts and services:

1. Emission Modules/Control Units – 139% increase
2. Exhaust – 107%
3. Cold Air Intake – 105%
4. Air Intake & Fuel Delivery – 93%
5. Services & Installation/Alignment & Steering – 91%
6. Services & Installation/Machining Service – 88%
7. Services & Installation/Appraisal & Inspection – 83%
8. Nerf Bars & Running Boards – 73%
9. Snowmobile/Neck Warmers & Face Masks – 71%
10. British & European/Body & Frame/Windshields – 70%

Vehicle trends can also help shops prepare for hot sellers. The 15 top-selling vehicles from January to September 2009 on eBay Motors included many performance and off-road models:

• Ford Mustang
• Chevrolet Corvette
• Chevrolet Silverado 1500
• Harley-Davidson 1450
• BMW 3-Series
• Chevrolet Camaro
• Ford F-150
• Porsche 911
• Chevrolet Tahoe
• GMC Sierra 1500
• Ford  F-250
• Ford F-350
• Jeep  Wrangler
• Chevrolet Impala
• Chevrolet Silverado 2500

During that same time, the top-10 most-viewed cars were:

1. Ford Mustang
2. Chevrolet  Camaro
3. Chevrolet  Corvette
4. Porsche 911
5. Ford F-150
6. Chevrolet Chevelle
7. Ford F-250
8. Jeep Wrangler
9. Chevrolet Bel Air/150/210
10. Chevrolet Impala

And the top-10 searched by make were:

1. Chevrolet
2. Harley-Davidson
3. Ford
4. BMW
5. Jeep
6. Ferrari
7. Honda
8. Yamaha
9. Porsche
10. Cadillac

Online Car Community

Finally, the site has been working to cultivate an online community of car enthusiasts, reflected by its recent Motors Master contest.

Winners were selected by a panel of expert judges after submitting a short video about their favorite car, truck or motorcycle project explaining why they would make the best do-it-yourself expert for each of four categories-muscle cars, tuners, off-road vehicles and motorcycles.

The winner in the muscle car category was Ken Imhoff for his hand-built aluminum Lamborghini Countach. He found his racing mufflers and SS tips, Corvette hubs and bushings, Momo seats, steering wheel and shifter knob all on eBay.

“eBay Motors has singlehandedly breathed new life into the car enthusiast community,” he says. “With nearly every new and used car part just a click away, garage projects which were otherwise doomed to never see the light of day have emerged from their dark place.”

The off-road winner was Alan Decktor and his 1995 modified Toyota Desert 50 race truck. Found on eBay-shocks, custom suspension, fiberglass front hood and rear fenders, SDS standalone EFI kit, thermal dynamic plasma cutter, GPS navigation system and ICOM race communications system.

“I’ve spent hundreds of hours fabricating every aspect of my truck in my driveway, often with very limited funds,” he says. “eBay Motors makes it possible to order virtually anything I need, from anywhere in the world, at an excellent price and fast so I can get it in time to go race or play.”

And the tuner winner was Mike Guido for his custom hybrid 1962 Austin Mini Nissan dubbed “Mini-ssan.” Found on eBay-”300ZX (VG30) engine, 150-hp NOS system, 300ZX 5-speed transmission, 240SX LSD and sub-frame.

“I started with a gutted and rusted 1962 Austin Mini shell-”four years and 4,000-plus hours later I have a show-winning one-of-a-kind Mini,” he says. “My challenge was to build the entire car for under $2,000. I had it mechanically done for about $1,500, thanks to eBay Motors.”

Rhodes encourages shops to investigate the ways eBay can help them be more profitable and efficient.

“I think we are seeing a real shift of consciousness of consumers,” he says. “Everyone is looking for value, and this is another way businesses can reach more customers and sell more products.”