KAR Auction Services is now KAR Global.
The rebranding announced Monday follows years of expansion, both geographically across North America and Europe and in terms of the services the company provides, thanks to its acquisitions and technolgical development.
Those purchases include the online sales (CarsOnTheWeb, TradeRev), data science/analytics (DRIVIN), recovery management (Clearplan) and mobility fleet services spaces (STRATIM).
As chairman and chief executive officer Jim Hallett put it, KAR goes well beyond “auction services” these days.
And well beyond North America or even the UK, as the recent acquisition of Belgium-based CarsOnTheWeb (which was rebranded as ADESA Europe in June) gave KAR an “anchor” in Continental Europe.
“At KAR, we have a fast, fearless and entrepreneurial culture, and we’ve been pioneers in the auction business for decades,” Hallett said in a news release. “But we’re a lot more than just ‘auction services.’
“We’re rethinking and reimagining remarketing for our diverse sellers and buyers across the automotive sector. These global customers want global solutions — and that’s what KAR Global delivers,” he said.
When asked in a phone interview if there was an, “aha moment” where leadership realized KAR needed to rebrand, Hallett said the company began thinking about that about three years ago.
With all of the different companies under its umbrella, KAR wanted to find a way for folks to better understand that it wasn’t just an auction or remarketing company, he said.
KAR worked with outside consultants and members of its senior leadership team and “for the better part” of a year, the company looked at ideas and gathered input.
They postponed taking any action, Hallett said, as they were moving into a new headquarters, which have sinced opened in Carmel, Ind.
It also made sense logistically to wait until after IAA spin-off was complete, said KAR Global president Peter Kelly, who joined Hallett on the call. (That spin was completed earlier this year).
And now, the company has new digs and a new name.
“We think ‘KAR Global’ says a lot in those two words,” Hallett said in the interview. “I think it says a lot about who we are … Our customers are global. Global customers want to do business with global companies. And we wanted to let the world know that we were spread across the globe, with all of these various services that we’re providing global solutions for.”
In fact, KAR does business with companies in more than 70 countries.
‘What unites us’
Kelly said the company has been going to market more often as “KAR” in recent years rather than as siloed brands. It is a unified approach, if you will.
“I’d say in the last few years, our customers have started to think of us more as KAR and what unites us,” Kelly said. “And we’re trying to act that way. We recognize that by bringing these offerings together into more unified solutions for our customers, that’s how we can win the marketplace.”
Hallett added that in both the investment community and its own community in Central Indiana, the company is recognized more so as KAR (versus its individual brands). Now that is happening in the remarketing community, too.
“There’s really been a shift here over the last two or three years. The name KAR is much more recognizable than it was even three years ago,” Hallett said.
KAR takes on brand of its own
When the foundation of what is today’s company was spun off from ALLETE in 2004 and went public, it needed a stock ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange, Hallett said.
It went with “KAR” as “CAR” was already taken. When the company was acquired by private equity in 2007, a holding company was needed, thus KAR Holdings was born.
KAR Holdings became KAR Auction Services in 2009, and the company went public again that same year. It has remained a publicly traded company since.
“When ‘KAR’ was first used, when KAR was first incorporated the company, there probably wasn’t a ton of marketing analysis that went into that (name), being candid about it,” Kelly said.
“And when we came to this decision” to look into rebranding, he added, “we looked at a range of different possibilities. But I think one of the things we realized was that KAR had taken on a brand.”
Not only had customers started recognizing the KAR brand, there was a lot of pride internally about the brand, as well.
So, they wanted to keep the “KAR” aspect, but add in the “Global” piece to recognize the extension and expansion of the various services the company began to provide.
Race car speed
When you look at the new logo, the “K” next to the “KAR Global” moniker resembles a race car driver. This was meant to reflect both the racing heritage of the Indianapolis-area and KAR’s strategy for speed, the company said
Hallett says the race car driver reflects the “fast and fearless” approach that KAR wants to take.
“We’re willing to take some risks, we’re willing to try and move quickly,” Kelly said.
In the news release, senior vice president of marketing and communications Tobin Richer also touched on that speed.
“KAR is a big company, but we’re proud to think, innovate and operate at start-up speed,” Richer said. “Our new logo reflects the spirit and drive of our employees and our passion for the car business.
“It also signals to our customers that we’ll continue accelerating, pushing the envelope and leading the change in our industry.”
Kelly spoke to that change, on the KAR level, during the interview.
“When I think of the meetings that we have, the presentations that we give, the discussions that we have with our customers today and how they’ve evolved compared to even four or five years ago, I mean, they’ve changed a lot. It’s a lot more technology, a lot more data, a lot more forward-looking aspect to those meetings,” Kelly said.
“And I know there’s a great history in selling our customers vehicles at our auctions, and all of that, that’s still a very, very important part of our business,” he said. “But our business today goes well beyond that and our dialogue with customers goes well beyond that, too.”