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The automotive salvage industry – where do we go from here?

Over the years, James Smith, General Manager and Founder of National Salvage Direct Association (NASADA, has seen many changes in the auto salvage industry, including the changes in technology. He provides his viewpoint on what factors should be considered to ensure the younger generation of owners of auto salvage businesses become savvy buyers like their predecessors.


The automotive salvage industry - where do we go from here? p
James Smith

The vehicle salvage business has changed so much over the years. What used to be a labor and mental-intensive weekly endeavor, taking up a good portion of the day and sometimes the night, has morphed into an online odyssey that still has many drawbacks.

The automotive salvage industry - where do we go from here? p two

Playing at the auctions was, and still is, a major component of the job. It requires leaving your facility to visit auction locations and visually inspecting each unit that may fit your needs—looking for usable parts and hoping for the best deal. Knowing from past experiences, not everything you need on that vehicle is going to be resalable. It’s not the obvious pieces that get you; it’s always the how’d that get broken part?

The salvage business is a love/hate relationship if you’re like me. The love of the business is what keeps bringing you back for more. The hate part is what motivates me to change.

The change comes in the form of additional tools to make the job easier. Things like online bidding and algorithms set up by you or a supplier that helps sort through the noise, advances in technology to speed the processes involved in vehicle recycling, apps for transporters, fixtures, and machines for dismantling in an environmentally friendly way. And the ever-increasing need for information. Change seldom comes easy and is rarely done to leave room for how it used to be.

If experience with making the right buying choices was your teacher in the past, how important is it today with all the advancements in technology? Take the technology offered with the online buying experience as an example. We now have more information at our fingertips than ever before.

Remember the days of basic information scribbled on the glass? It typically included model year, miles (if known), runs, drives sometimes, and of course, the lot number. Not much to go on. Therefore, prior experience was very important. With the advancements in technology, we have more background on the vehicles but still have gaps. The younger generation learning and growing in the business still have much to learn from the older generation that has seen a thing or two.

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Experience in the industry will always be a major factor for anyone in the vehicle recycling industry. My question is, what advancements in the industry can complement the experience of a seasoned professional and, at the same time, help the younger generation become savvy buyers like their predecessors?

I think whatever the advancements are, they need to embrace the skills and experience the industry already has and then add to them in a positive way.

If we created a wish list for buyers and sellers, what would it include?

Check all that apply: [ ] Convenience, [ ] Lower cost, [ ] History reports, [ ] Adjusters estimate, [ ] Runs / Drives,  [ ] Residual value of parts undamaged, [ ] Vehicle in demand rating, [ ] Interchanges with, [ ] Same day payments, [ ] Same day titles, [ ] Speed of sale, [ ] Secure B2B platform, [ ] User defined preferences, [ ] User’s define process improvements. [ ] Reduce or eliminate towing and storage, [ ] Reduction of steps and paperwork, [ ] Turn key, easy integration, [ ] Compliant, [ ] Easy integration with existing accounting systems.

What else would you add?

Advances in the sales process will help immensely.

No matter where you stand currently in the automotive salvage industry, changes are happening.

Our job function remains the same. To improve our performance, we need to embrace and add the coming changes to our skillset. Some will be easy; others may be more challenging. All will be worth the effort.

To contact James, please email him at

See James’ previous articleIs it time for the auto salvage market to change again?