Subaru national fleet remarketing manager John Manchin shares his insights on March 24, 2022 during a panel on the future of remarketing at the Conference of Automotive Remarketing in Las Vegas. -...

Subaru national fleet remarketing manager John Manchin shares his insights on March 24, 2022 during a panel on the future of remarketing at the Conference of Automotive Remarketing in Las Vegas.

Photo: Stewart Digital Media

Today marks the final day of John Manchin’s 47-year automotive and remarketing career. The outgoing national fleet remarketing manager for Subaru of America Inc. will exit the headquarters building in Camden, N.J., one last time in a way appropriate to his leading career role.

“I’ll turn in my company car, and the car I’m buying will be waiting for me gassed up,” Manchin said. “I’ll put my golf clubs in it.” Should anyone ask, his retirement car is a good fit: A Subaru Forester Limited.

For 21 years, Manchin oversaw Subaru’s remarketing operation that moved vehicles, consigning them to auctions that then sold them to dealers. He has been responsible for the asset liquidation and remarketing activities for all Subaru vehicle groups in the secondary market. That includes managing 15 auctions at locations nationwide, 12 of which are also used by J.P. Morgan Chase, which originates leases and loans for the off-lease portfolio of Subaru.

“I believe the remarketing segment is unique and completely different than everything else in the automotive industry,” Manchin said. “Everybody knows each other and gets along. We get together and share best practices and don’t act like competitors,” he added, citing Toyota, Mazda, and Nissan. “We each sell our respective vehicles to our network of franchised dealerships.”

He started in the automotive world at age 20 selling cars for a Pontiac and Datsun dealership, and gained industry knowledge through retail, auto finance and remarketing leadership roles. His 12 years in banking/auto finance laid the groundwork for his remarketing work that started with lease returns. 

Manchin joined Subaru in December 2001 as remarketing manager for Subaru Auto Leasing with the responsibility of liquidating the consumer off-lease portfolio. He introduced and incorporated multi-channel, upstream remarketing at Subaru in March 2003 by designing and implementing SubaruSOLD, an internet-based remarketing system.

In 2009 he took over his current role as national fleet remarketing manager, where he handled all areas of remarketing except off-lease vehicles.

Typically, about 70-75% of the vehicles remarketed include rental buybacks and another 25% involve executive cars, employee lease cars, and promotional and marketing cars, he explained.

Subaru vehicles are only remarketed to dealerships in closed auction sales since the brand holds its value so well, Manchin said. FYI: The Outback and Forester compete for the top-selling Subaru model, historically.

A Tough Ending

The last chapter of Manchin’s Subaru career covered the pandemic effects on global production and remarketing while presenting some major challenges.

“COVID disrupted everything," he said. "Unfortunately, because of supply constraints in 2022 we did zero commercial fleet, with no sales or buybacks. Historically, we sold around 20,000 rental vehicles to Hertz and Avis/Budget, but for the ’22 MY we did zero. Fleet business is based on excess capacity. We had no rental/fleet business because we have an order bank of customers waiting months for new cars. All of our production is going to fill retail orders.”

Manchin also notes the lack of available rentals and company cars. Vehicles routinely driven for 6,000 miles are kept for 25,000 miles since new ones are hard to come by. Before COVID hit, Subaru handled an average of 1,700 cars per month at 15 Manheim auction locations nationwide.

“Rental accounts would buy cars in the spring, rent them out in the summer, then after back to school, the cars would be returned to auction as part of the de-fleeting process,” he said. “Wash-rinse-repeat. We did zero business in Spring 2022 and no cars came back in the fall of 2022. Auction inventory decreased by 75-80%.

“I’m tired of saying this is unprecedented, but often that is the best descriptive adjective to describe the current market conditions. There’s no predictability. Everything has come down to the last minute, last second.”

Subaru set sales records every year from 2008-2019, with over 700,000 vehicles sold in calendar year 2019. Since then, the fleet percentage has declined from 5% to 2%, with 6% the highest Subaru ever did. “Given consumer popularity, we needed to stay in the rental business because the brand gains exposure to consumers,” Manchin said. 


Manchin accepts the Consignor of the Year Award on March 24, 2022 at CAR, recognizing his efforts to apply best practices, create industry innovations, and move the industry forward with...

Manchin accepts the Consignor of the Year Award on March 24, 2022 at CAR, recognizing his efforts to apply best practices, create industry innovations, and move the industry forward with professionalism.

Photo: Stewart Digital Media

An Early Digital Adoption

COVID has taught everyone that you can get a lot of work done remotely, Manchin said, but for him, that venue evolved a decade before.

Subaru was an early adopter of digital auctions, already doing 75% of them online in 2009, he said. It pursued online auctions out of necessity since Manchin at times had to oversee auctions the same day on the East and West coasts and needed to do one remotely.

Before that set up, Manchin was traveling to each of 15 auctions twice per year putting him on a plane two to three times per month. He would be onsite for two auction sales, and online for the other 10 auction sales each year in each city. The pandemic accelerated the move to more digital versus physical auctions, leaving Manchin at the end of his career with about 90-95% remote-digital auctions.

“I’m very glad I realized the advantage of remote selling in the digital space early in my career,” Manchin said. “It saves the time and expense of traveling to auctions. If I were to have done it old school, and physically attended every sale, I would have been traveling four weeks a month. I’m happy I didn’t do that. I enjoyed a work-life balance. I was not a road warrior, thanks to embracing technology.”

In April 2020, Manheim said no one was allowed to come to the auctions because of pandemic precautions, Manchin recalled. “The auctioneer was on a block behind plexiglass. Everyone logged on to their computers and and it was a paradigm shift for everyone, except me.”

Lessons That Apply to All

With such an extensive career, Manchin has honed some solid principles that apply across the work board, or as he puts it, you should “live and breathe”:

  • Treat everyone with respect, such as vendors, suppliers, consumers. Subaru, for example, encourages a Share the Love campaign toward national and hometown charities, with more than $225 million donated so far.
  • You need to have strong interpersonal skills and personal relationships in the industry.
  • If you are a remarketer for a manufacturer, the sales process is not your typical adversarial “buyer versus seller.” You are in a partnership with your buyers, who are franchised dealerships representing your brand.
  • You want your buyers to come to the auction, purchase vehicles at the right price, so they can sell them at a profit and come back next month and repeat the process.
  • It may be business, but there are people involved. Manchin had to learn the hard way about mellowing as he got older. “Things will happen. It’s not going to go right. You will get upset. You cannot control what happens, but control how you react to what happens. You try to fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Don’t worry about finding fault and blaming.”
  • If you do get upset, don’t over-react, and don’t get personal or take it that way. Do that 100% of the time, not 80%.
  • It’s only a mistake the second time. The first time is a “learning experience.”
  • Be sure to understand economics. It comes down to knowing supply and demand.
  • You should consider two numbers critical: What is the maximum number of vehicles you can offer for sale? What is the optimal number of cars to offer in a sale? Find the sweet spot for auction volume. How long does it take to liquidate? What are the carrying costs?
  • Keep the value of the brand and vehicles as high as possible. If you sell too much at once, the values go down.
  • Know your market, your customers and the market demand. It is critical to match supply/demand. This is really important for the vehicles remarketed in “closed” environment with limited demand.
  • Set an expected value on every vehicle prior to the auction. Use goal prices rather than floor prices. Remember, “it is better to aim high and miss than to aim low and hit."
  • Gather data, data and more data and create databases. Measure and track everything.
  • Do not be afraid to go against conventional or normal wisdom or ways of doing things.
  • If you don’t try something new, you will never know if a change works. And if you try it and it doesn’t work, go back to what you’re doing or find another way. But if the change is better, you discovered something.
  • Remember the saying, “If nothing changes; nothing changes.”

An Award-Winning Blowout

Manchin is open to staying involved in remarketing with possible consulting opportunities. “I do not want to just walk away from an industry that I enjoyed for many years,” he said. For now, he leaves with the distinction of winning two major industry awards in 2022.

On March 24, at the Conference of Automotive Remarketing in Las Vegas, Manchin was named the 2022 Consignor of the Year. The award, which is sponsored by Bobit Business Media and the National Auto Auction Association, recognizes a consignor who has applied best practices; created industry innovations; moved the industry forward with professionalism; shared expertise with the industry; participated in industry associations; and served as a mentor to the next generation of remarketing professionals.

After receiving the award, Manchin in an interview credited Subaru with his good career and cited the many business relationships that turned into long-term friendships.

“I was one of those people who was blessed to be happy with their career. Work never seemed like work. I just thoroughly enjoyed my job. In all my years of remarketing, I met a lot of people. What was special were the relationships that began as colleagues, or vendors, or business partners, and they quickly turned into great friendships in the industry.”

John Manchin (R) got  surprise congratulations from his son Christopher Manchin on Nov. 17, 2022 before accepting the Ron Smith Lifetime Achievement Award during an awards luncheon at Used Car...

John Manchin (R) got  surprise congratulations from his son Christopher Manchin on Nov. 17, 2022 before accepting the Ron Smith Lifetime Achievement Award during an awards luncheon at Used Car Week in San Diego.

Photo: Courtesy of John Manchin

On Nov. 17, Manchin received the Ron Smith Lifetime Achievement Award during Used Car Week in San Diego, an award that has only been given five times in 20 years.

As an added recognition, his son, Christopher Manchin, a business law attorney in Philadelphia, flew out to San Diego to surprise his dad at the awards luncheon.

During the flight home, the younger Manchin emailed his father, which could qualify as the ultimate award:

“Congratulations again, Dad! I’m so happy I was able to be here today and witness everything. It was awesome to see you in your element and meet your colleagues (who were all great). You’ve always been my inspiration and role model and I couldn’t have asked for someone better to look up to. You figured out the whole “work-life balance” thing before anyone even coined that term. Now that I understand what it takes to be successful in the corporate world, I appreciate even more all the time and effort you put into coaching and being a family man while Jon and I were growing up. But somehow you still managed to rise to the top of your profession and made sure our family was always provided for. You deserved every bit of the recognition you received today. I’m so incredibly proud of you. I love you.”

Originally posted on Vehicle Remarketing

About the author
Martin Romjue

Martin Romjue

Managing Editor of Fleet Group, Charged Fleet Editor, Vehicle Remarketing Editor

Martin Romjue is the managing editor of the Fleet Trucking & Transportation Group, where he is also editor of Charged Fleet and Vehicle Remarketing digital brands. He previously worked as lead editor of Bobit-owned Luxury, Coach & Transportation (LCT) Magazine and from 2008-2020.

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