Spokane Journal of Business

Auto auction is rockin’ and rollin’

DAA Northwest here expect to sell 50K vehicles in ’17

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-—DAA Northwest
The Cronkites, shown above, played as the opening act for Lynyrd Skynyrd at DAA Northwest’s big annual summer event, at which the company sold 5,500 vehicles and drew 4,000 people.

When Bob McConkey Jr. moved his family to Spokane in the early ’90s to start an auto auction business, he set a goal of making 10,000 auto sales annually.

“I figured that would be enough for me to be able to support my family comfortably,” says McConkey, owner and president of Spokane-based DAA Northwest, on the West Plains.

At a promotional gathering for its customers last month, DAA sold 5,500 cars in four nights. This year, the company expects to sell 50,000 vehicles. 

Says the 56-year-old McConkey, “I really don’t know how this has taken off the way it has. But I do know this: We’re good at what we do.”

DAA, located at 2215 S. Hayford Road, holds auctions every Wednesday and Thursday. The company sells vehicles on consignment for banks and finance companies, rental-car companies, and fleet and lease companies.

The company also sells cars traded in on new vehicles and excess inventories consigned by dealers. Only auto dealers can buy vehicles at the auction.

On North Spokane, at 2020 N. Monroe, Mitch Silver has owned and operated Silver Collector Car Auctions, a retail auction house open to the public, since 1979. Headquartered here, Silver conducts classic auto auctions across the country.

“Our focus is on collector autos, which I consider a vehicle appreciating in value and in collector’s status,” Silver says.

“You can have a Toyota Avalon that’s 20 years old. While most wouldn’t think that a car made in 1997 is a collector’s item, but if it stands out, is in pristine condition and has low miles, it’s technically in collector’s status,” he says.

Silver says classic car collecting has been on the rise for a solid decade.

“People who collect cars are having fun. It’s a hobby with an investment component to it,” says Silver, who estimates his company sells on average more than 2,000 cars per year.

In Post Falls, Cameron Jones owns and operates Post Falls Auto Auction at 1094 N. McGuire Road, which is also a public auto auction house.

“It’s a good industry, and it’s definitely growing,” says Jones, whose auction house sells all makes and models of vehicles. 

DAA Northwest here is the largest auction company, both wholesale and retail, in the region. McConkey is the principal owner of the Spokane-based McConkey Auction Group Inc., which operates DAA Northwest; DAA Seattle, based in Auburn, Wash.; and KCI Auto Auction, in Kansas City, Mo.

The three businesses are expected to sell more than 100,000 total combined units, or cars and trucks, this year, which would mark an all-time high for a single year. At least half those will be sold through DAA Northwest, says McConkey, who declines to reveal annual revenues.

McConkey and co-owner Greg Mahugh, DAA Northwest’s senior vice president of operations, are auto auction veterans who previously worked together in Seattle.

They started Dealers Auto Auction of Spokane in the fall of 1992, buying the former Inland Northwest Auto Auctions Inc. facility at the corner of Geiger Boulevard and Electric Avenue in the Spokane International Airport Business Park.

They launched the company on five acres of land with nine employees. The burgeoning company then moved to its current location in 1996 before changing the name to DAA Northwest in 2000.

Today, the McConkey Auto Auction Group owns 110 acres of land and has six buildings with a total of 85,000-square feet of floor space. It employs 250 people at its West Plains location, McConkey says.

In addition, the McConkey Business Park, at 11011 W. 21st, across the street from DAA Northwest, houses five other companies that do business with the auto auction enterprise. Those businesses include Automotive Financing Corp., ASI East, DAA Mechanical, Fastenal Co., and Floorplan Xpress.

The company also operates two DAA Auto Body & Repair shops, one at the DAA Northwest site and the other on the South Hill.

“I think the best way I could say it is that we take our relationships with our customers seriously,” McConkey says.

He says the company spent $500,000 on its annual “Rock & Roll Sale,” with one of the nights featuring a live performance by the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. The annual event is held exclusively for customers and attendance is by invitation only.

The four nights of auto auctions resulted in the sale of 5,500 vehicles. The concert drew more than 4,000 attendees.

“The motivation for the concerts through the years is that it has given us a unique element in the industry. It’s given us a reputation that is national,” McConkey says.

“National buyers from Ford, GM, and Toyota are here every year for the music and the food we serve them at each auction,” he says.

In Kansas City, McConkey says the equivalent of what’s done in Spokane is called “Guitars & Cars,” where country music and Kansas City barbecue are served for buyers.

Here on the West Plains, past musical performers have included such well-known bands as Heart, The Doobie Brothers, REO Speedwagon, Huey Lewis & the News, and Styx. McConkey says the first “Rock & Roll Sale,” held in 1996, saw 600 customers turn out to watch a performance by Jerry Lee Lewis.

As for the auctions, there is a whole lot of shaking going on, McConkey says.

DAA Northwest has a total of eight auction lanes, all under one roof, where buyers bid and purchase vehicles that, at the most, they see for a couple of minutes before they’re moved off the sales lanes.

“There is no, ‘going once, going twice,’ they’re just gone,” McConkey says of sold vehicles.

It’s a loud, fast-paced scene where the buyers are standing and vying for the auctioneer’s attention as they try to get an edge on other buyers for a purchase. On average, DAA sells between 1,200 to 1,500 vehicles during weekday auctions, McConkey says.

McConkey grew up in the auto auction business. His father, Bob McConkey Sr., is credited with having started Washington’s first auto auction dealership in 1954 in Seattle.

McConkey and his brother, Fred, took over the business from their father before deciding to sell it in 1986 to explore other career opportunities. McConkey moved to Los Angeles and lived there from 1986 to 1989.

He moved back to Seattle in 1989, and after starting a family, decided he wanted to move somewhere with a slower pace of life.

The majority of DAA Northwest’s customers are from the Northwest, but some come from as far away as the East Coast, McConkey says.

To his knowledge, McConkey says DAA Northwest sells more units per capita than any other auction house in the U.S.

“The auction companies are now being run by large corporations who are involved in the automotive industry, entertainment industry … you name it,” McConkey says.

“In order to stay in business, the independents have had to consolidate. We’ve resisted that. Our independence gives us the flexibility to be able to connect with our customers. It allows you to do things like spend half-a-million on a rock-and-roll party,” McConkey says with a laugh.

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