Unless you've been frozen in a cryogenic storage unit for the better part of the past decade, you've at least heard of eBay, and so has everyone you know. The popularity of this on-line auction house has spread like wildfire, to the point that even those who've never perused its virtual lots know of its existence. If you're reading this magazine, you must be a gearhead, which further increases the likelihood that you've been to eBay and probably even made a few bids, if not walked away with a purchase. That's because the concept of trading automotive wares fits the eBay model so well that a separate division was created just for car stuff, dubbed eBay Motors, which was launched in the Spring of 2000.
It's little surprise that eBay has grown so quickly, and perhaps even less surprising that automotive items are among the most commonly traded. Car guys have been wheeling and dealing hardware since before the days of Thickstun intakes and beehive oil coolers. Traditionally, this has involved checking classifieds, word of mouth, or the motorhead's favorite, the swap meet. But eBay Motors provides the content of a killer swap meet and car corral at the click of a mouse. Go online any time, day or night, and there are thousands of auction listings for cars and parts, plus you still have the opportunity to bargain for items rather than just paying the posted price. Combining these features with the vastness of the new and used automotive merchandise markets and the nature of deal-seeking car enthusiasts, and eBay is a perfect fit.
The Thrill Of The Auction
The concept of an auction is obviously an old one, and something many of us are familiar with. Rather than naming a price and seeking a buyer, the seller puts his item "on the block" at an organized auction, where potential buyers gather en mass to vie for goods. This brings the market to the buyer and broadens his prospects. Then the potential buyers have to actually do battle to "win" the item up for bid; this again works for the seller, as it maximizes his revenue potential by allowing the market to determine the value, provided the item is at all desirable. In some cases, the bidding will eclipse the actual value as competition heats up, which we'll discuss in more detail later.
The online auction takes the benefits of a traditional live auction-or what eBay likes to refer to as an "offline" auction-and then goes further by opening up the field of potential buyers by the thousands. Even popular live auctions only draw people who are seriously interested in buying, and these auctions are usually still limited by geographic region. The online auction allows the casual buyer to look over the wares from the comfort of home, and he can even bid while remaining almost completely anonymous ... from another continent. In this way, as the seller, the world truly is your oyster.
The online auction also insulates the seller even further from the selling process by placing a partial barrier between the bidders and sellers. No more random phone calls in response to a classified ad, no more stream of looky-loos dropping by to criticize your sale item in an attempt to knock down the price. The auction starts and ends when the seller says so, and bidders can look whenever they want during that period, for as long as they like, but can only make inquiries via e-mail. Anyone who's ever sold a car privately knows what a benefit this can be.
But perhaps one of the greatest benefits is one that is shared with offline auctions: the competition that occurs among buyers when a desirable item is up for bid. In a perfectly logical Vulcan world, buyers would place bids until they felt that the value of the item had been reached; then they would cease bidding, either winning the auction at that price or effectively handing the item to the remaining bidders. However, here on earth, it doesn't always work that simply.