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Big names buy into business

Rick Armstrong, Troy Kennedy and Mark Darrow purchase stake in trading platform Auction Online.
Posted on 12 February, 2024
Rick Armstrong, left, executive director of Armstrong’s, Mark Darrow, chairman, and Troy Kennedy, chief executive   

Well-known members of New Zealand’s car industry have taken a 40 per cent stake in a dealer-only trading platform.

Auction Online, which was founded by entrepreneurs Ben Carrancho and Rui Santos, now has three people from the Armstrong Motor Group as shareholders as the business looks to expand.

They are executive director Rick Armstrong, the company’s chief executive Troy Kennedy and Mark Darrow, who is chairman of Armstrong’s. The sum for the deal is undisclosed.

Auction Online has been operating in New Zealand for about five years and – as revealed in the February issue of Autofile magazine – it has more than 800 registered car traders signed up.

Co-founder Santos says that total amounts to almost one-third of the country’s dealership base and, since its inception, it has sold about 10,000 vehicles.

“We are a dealer-only platform,” he adds. “Turners and Manheim have similar offers, but they do other things as well.”

Auction Online is about to launch a new offering in the next few weeks called Auto Cash-up so registered motor-vehicle traders can make direct offers to private sellers.

This will be offered to car dealers who are already signed up to the platform for free. The company, which was previously 50-50 owned by Santos and Carrancho, has plans to provide finance options for buyers and sellers using its online services.

“The new shareholders will open a few doors for us that were previously not really available, purely based on them being respected individuals in the market and industry,” Santos told the NZ Herald. “Their influence will streamline our growth and expedite it.” He adds Auction Online isn’t seeking to be listed on the NZX “at this stage”.

Santos, pictured, below left, has spent 15 years working in the automotive industry “with numerous successful dealerships under his belt”, while Carrancho, below right, brings more than two decades’ experience in diverse business ventures to the table. His background is in marketing while his “primary strength” lies in crafting software applications. 

Armstrong’s, meanwhile, has 18 international vehicle brands and has locations around New Zealand.

What Auction Online does

The company says its mission is to “revolutionise the vehicle-trading landscape by fostering a dynamic marketplace where franchise dealers and the public seamlessly connect with wholesale buyers. We envision a platform that transcends traditional boundaries, empowering businesses and individuals to navigate the market with ease and efficiency”.

Its dealer-to-dealer auctions are designed to link franchise dealers, rental groups and used-vehicle wholesalers to transact in trade-ins, fleet and aged stock. The platform provides a simplified auction process for users. 

“With a proven track record, we offer our users a perfect way to dispose of and acquire all kinds of vehicles around New Zealand,” says the company.

“Utilising our sophisticated and proven app, buyers can conveniently view vehicles from their offices, eliminating the need to visit the site in person.”

Then there’s Auction Online’s private-to-dealer auctions, which is to be launched soon. Called Auto Cash-up, it will enable dealers to make offers directly to private sellers.

“We’re flipping the script by granting wholesalers immediate entry to every privately listed car on our platform. If you’re already part of the Auction Online community, you’ll enjoy free, instant access.”

And when it comes to fleet disposal, “there is truly no better method to maximise returns on end-of-life stock than by featuring it in an auction that reaches all of New Zealand’s wholesale buyers”.

The company’s website adds: “With transparent pricing and no hidden costs, the only outcome is a higher return for stock. If you lease your stock, clearing aged inventory through an auction ensures a more lucrative outcome.

“We will tailor a dedicated auction for your business, ensuring that each of your cars receives exposure to a nationwide audience reaching beyond a select few.” Visit www.auctiononline.co.nz to find out more.