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SA consumers take to online bidding for vehicle sales

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 21 Dec 2023
Evolving consumer needs have created strong competition within the used car market.
Evolving consumer needs have created strong competition within the used car market.

Used car online marketplace Weelee says it has seen "exponential growth" in the number of prospective car buyers opting for online bidding platforms, as local consumer needs evolve.

Since launching its online car sales platform in 2017, Weelee has helped over 100 000 South Africans sell their vehicles through its platform, noting it has doubled its sales year-on-year.

The company’s business model is premised on a hybrid selling approach. Weelee purchases quality used vehicles from private owners, and sells them at wholesale prices at its Megastore.

It also has an online bidding platform which connects the seller to thousands of pre-approved dealers, to get multiple offers and therefore sell their car for the best cash price.

Customers have the option of choosing an immediate payment from Weelee or loading their car onto a same-day auction portal, and get the best price from thousands of dealers.

Weelee CEO Errol Levin tells ITWeb that digital marketplaces and vehicle bidding platforms are fundamentally transforming the dynamics of interactions between buyers and sellers within the local pre-owned car market.

On average over 2 000 vehicles are sold via the platform per month, on behalf of sellers, he adds.

“In a rapidly evolving economic climate marked by high interest rates and escalating fuel costs, consumer preferences have shifted and strong competition within the used car market is the catalyst for innovative solutions and enhanced customer service,” explains Levin.

“Growth has been exponential. Weelee’s success is attributed to the combination of both buying and selling cars. The Weelee model is based on an innovative bidding platform that connects customers with thousands of pre-approved dealers to bid on their car – meaning that Weelee is able to get a customer multiple offers when selling their car.”

Over the past few years, South Africa has seen a growing number of players entering the online marketplace space for vehicle sales, including Auto Trader, Auto Mart, Facebook Marketplace, WeBuyCars, Bid4Cars, The Car Auction, Cars.co.za and Carfind.co.za.

According to Straits Research, the online car buying market size is projected to reach $722 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 12%.

According to Levin, historically, consumers had very limited options to sell their cars in South Africa.

Consumers would try to sell privately – an option that comes with safety risks. Other options include trading-in their car against the purchase of a new car, or selling it to their local car dealer and potentially get a sub optimal price, he points out.

Weelee utilises Salesforce, a global tech stack, to enable the business to connect with customers and support them in either buying, selling or trading-in their vehicle.

Multiple technologies and products are used to optimise all facets of the business, from acquiring new customers, to managing stock and pricing, to better connecting with current customers to service them in a seamless manner.

“For example, Weelee uses machine learning algorithms to determine the price the customers can expect for their cars. We also use the automatic number plate reader technology, which pulls the registration number and automatically blurs the images for the customer’s privacy when selling their vehicle online. Weelee also has an integration with TransUnion’s system to get the latest retail and trade values, as well as DealerNet integration to automatically submit customer finance applications for faster approvals,” explains Levin.

The company is looking at capturing a larger share of SA’s market, through a nationwide expansion plan that will see it strategically establish a network of megastores throughout the country, he adds.

In January 2023, Weelee launched the retail arm of its business out of a Kempton Park warehouse, enabling customers to buy used cars at wholesale prices to the public.

Last month, the company opened its flagship Megastore in Centurion, which employs a team of 200 employees.

The company has over 1 000 cars listed on the Weelee website and onsite at its Megastore in Centurion.

“Weelee’s objective is to keep the customer at the heart of what it does, providing great service trust and good value whether a customer is buying, selling or trading in their car. Our rigorous checks when purchasing a vehicle is of direct benefit to the public when a vehicle has been thoroughly inspected,” he concludes.

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