Barrett-Jackson is home to the world’s most profitable car auction. Its main event, held every January in Scottsdale, kicked off its 2013 season by tying its 2007 record sales of close to $100 million.
What Barrett-Jackson employees do when there isn’t an auction in progress is sometimes just as important as the auction itself.
One of the most vital items on Barrett-Jackson’s agenda between auctions is car consignment.
For the auction it’s currently running in Palm Beach Florida – it started Thursday and finishes today – Barrett-Jackson began the consignment process in early February, allowing car owners to get their cars evaluated to be entered into the auction.
“Sometimes it is our job to tell the customer their car isn’t worth what they think it is,” explained CEO Craig Jackson. “We also like to balance the numbers of certain cars we get so there aren’t too many Corvettes or ’57 Chevys.”
Jackson grew up in the business when his father initially started the company with his partner, Tom Barrett. Jackson starting working on the ground floor at a young age, and worked his way up. Eventually, he would be driving the cars from the showroom to the auction site.
After his father and brother had died, Jackson became CEO in 1996. From there on out, it was Jackson’s mission to transform the company into a modernized business aimed at a variety of car loves.
“I computerized the entire operation and made it more exciting for people to watch. I created the idea for a fashion show, drew in sponsors and TV stations and learned how to drive the event with the media,” Jackson said.
The company’s suite packages encompassed everything a buyer would need, he said, including a tented area situated around the auction stage, private seating and event passes.
Steve Des Georges was vice president of marketing and public relations of Barrett-Jackson from 1999 to 2000 and helped create the company’s suite program. These packages were sold starting at $15,000 and brought customers up close to the stage and gave them their own private areas.
“My job was to encourage participation in Barrett-Jackson,” Des Georges said. “Craig has taken Barrett-Jackson to the next level. The suite packages were just an expansion to Craig’s vision. It gives buyers the opportunity to reserve their own space for the weekend and included their tickets to the show.”
Jackson made the auctions more of a festival.
“Craig has evolved his father’s original three-day event to become a seven-day event,” Des Georges said. “Now, the car auctions have memorabilia, fashion shows, galas and live music.”
Before an auction begins, Barrett-Jackson employees work to design the auction stage and surroundings. A few weeks before the auction, they are flown out to the site to build it while Jackson and other employees continue to work on the catalogue and sell consignments.
Barrett-Jackson auctions – there are four per year -- are typically held in about the same places annually. Jackson said if sellers does not like one of the venues from a previous year, Jackson works to change the location to one preferred by the customers. This year, the Reno Tahoe location replaces Orange County, as customers said California regulations made the location unfavorable.
Jackson said Scottsdale’s 2013 auction held about 1,350 cars, while the current Palm Beach auction has have nearly 500 cars. One of the noteworthy cars sold in Scottsdale was the original Batmobile vehicle, from the 1960s television series starring Adam West as the “Caped Crusader.” The car, purchased by lifelong Batman fan and Ahwatukee Foothills resident Rick Champagne, brought in nearly $4.62 million and added to the total $100 million in sales.
Barrett-Jackson’s annual record for sales was in 2007, right before the economy plunged. After its Scottsdale auction in 2013, where it tied its 2007 record event high of $100 million, Jackson said it appears the economy is looking up, which is good for his business and customers.
What is Jackson’s personal favorite car? “I like the Bugatti Veyron. I’m going to drive it later today,” he said.