Modern Dealership’s Interview with BaT Cofounder & CEO Randy Nonnenberg
Some treasure-hunters look for gold; others, for lost cities or tombs. For Randy Nonnenberg it’s interesting cars. Ever since he was a kid, the self-described classifieds addict has been on the constant lookout for rare gems, “even if I couldn’t buy any of them.”
Nonnenberg’s desire to write about his finds and share them with a just-as-enthusiastic car community led to the creation in 2007 of Bring a Trailer (BaT) – now an online auction of the “best vintage and classic cars” on the internet, with open commenting and discussion from the audience.
What are the basics behind Bringatrailer.com?
The site has always been about a shared discussion about interesting cars. It just turns out that cars that are available for sale are more fun to talk about than cars that are just featured in a magazine or on the web. The site’s audience grew so much in its first several years that members of the audience started asking if they could simply list their cars for sale to our audience. The marketplace component and what is now BaT Auctions took off from there.
Tell us a little about the Bring a Trailer office.
We are based in San Francisco and are now up to 20 employees. When we launched BaT Auctions in 2014 we only had three employees, so it has been a wild ride already, with more to come. Our team is a passionate bunch of car enthusiasts, and we all have interesting cars that we get together from time to time.
“There is a lot of bad news in the world these days, so it is gratifying to see the Bring a Trailer community of car enthusiasts connect and grow in a positive way.” – BaT Cofounder & CEO Randy Nonnenberg
What’s a favorite Bring a Trailer story of yours?
We have a whole category of what we call BaT Success Stories. This is where users follow up with us about cars they have bought or sold in our marketplace. Whenever I read an article about a car or see one for sale that is now sold and gone, I have always wondered: ‘What happened next?’ BaT Success Stories give that follow-up account, and give some insight into the person who bought it. There are many road trip stories, family stories, and restoration project chronicles that nobody ever would have heard about otherwise. I really love those.
How do you choose which cars to list? Are there set standards?
From the early days of BaT, we have always liked everything from $2,000 cars to $2,000,000 cars. For us it is not about price, but about that ‘specialness’ that is hard to describe. Some are rare, some are fast, some are beautiful … but all are interesting and therefore desirable.
Coolest car(s) you’ve seen come through?
We used several of our own cars to prove the BaT Auction concept at the beginning. The first day saw our 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, our 1990 BMW E30 M3, and our 1964 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT sell to the first three BaT Auction winners. Those are sentimental to me because they were great cars, but also because I feel like I traded them for the opportunity to introduce a new type of auction to the collector car world. I was sad to see them go, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
You have a daily email – about how many cars are added daily?
Currently, just over 30 auction listings are added each day, and we also still feature a few interesting cars from around the web each day. These all go out on the BaT Daily Email to subscribers, and we also have many users signed up to get email and text alerts for their favorite makes and models. You never want to miss out on one of your favorites on BaT!
How often are the auctions?
BaT Auctions are running all the time, and we’re currently launching over 160 every week. That is quite different from the three per week when we launched auctions in 2014. It has been widely adopted by so many car enthusiasts, partially because of the auction features that are designed to make it transparent and fair. Those are really missing in live auctions and other online auctions.
What’s your favorite thing about Bring a Trailer?
My favorite thing about BaT is the community of users. It continually thrills me that when I meet people at car events they tell me how they start each day with the BaT Daily Email and it brings them joy. I could never have imagined how far this community would reach. There is a lot of bad news in the world these days, so it is gratifying to see the Bring a Trailer community of car enthusiasts connect and grow in a positive way.
Where did the idea for charity auctions come from?
Charity auctions found us! We are happy to have sellers who are passionate about certain charities, and we are always excited to donate any of our fees to the same charity they choose. Another big boost for our site’s popularity came when American Honda chose to auction off the first Honda Civic Type-R last year (link). That car sold for $200,000, all of which went to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, and the BaT community also kicked in more donations even if they weren’t bidders on the car. That was a huge success story for all involved and remains the most popular BaT Auction listing to date, with over 236,000 views.