By Roger Woodward, managing director, CD Auction Group
Plans to introduce a standardised, specific grading system for vehicle condition at auction are well intentioned.
But the move is likely to lead to more, not less, confusion in the market, in my opinion.
I write with some experience: CD Auction Group operated a specific grading system when it first went into online auctions more than 15 years ago, but we dropped the idea after it led to disputes over interpretation.
These days we use high-quality digital images and a detailed condition report to describe the car, light commercial vehicle or plant item that is being offered for sale.
It’s easy to assume that a specific grading system makes the vehicle condition clearer for buyers and vendors, but our many years’ experience of online trading has proved it’s not like that.
Even with sophisticated software to back it up, one man’s ‘condition 3’ can be another man’s ‘condition 5’ and that means unhappy buyers and sellers.
Forcing vehicles into specific categories can also reduce prices achieved because there’s a natural tendency for assessors to downgrade if the true extent of any damage is not obvious.
CD Auction Group dropped its numerical grading system (from one to nine and based on the BVRLA condition guidelines) in 2008 after recognising that it was not achieving its original purpose, even though it was supported by high quality pictures.
Now we choose to tell the story of the car. If there’s a scratch, we show you the scratch and let you make up your own mind.
Buyers like it because they can set their own value and vendors like it because it doesn’t pigeon-hole their cars into any particular grade.
Online trading is all about giving vendors and buyers confidence, with transparent systems that are secure yet simple and easy to use.
We’ve learned that over the years and I’m surprised the new proposal from NAMA (which, incidentally, does not have pure online auctions as members) appears to have been so readily accepted.