Eli More has found a way to take the used-car salesman out of the used-car lot by opening an automotive flea market in Houston.
He rents 12 acres of pavement for Houston Autofair Inc., and people who want to unload their cars can rent space by the day, week, weekend, or month. The lot serves as a central meeting ground for buyers, sellers, and tire-kickers.
Autofair gets its revenue -- $250,000 in 1983, its first year -- from renting the space to sellers. There is no admission, no commission on sales, and no fast-talking, strong-arming salesmen. It is just buyers and sellers wheeling and dealing alfresco The lot is usually filled with about 700 cars, ranging from shiny Corvettes to bulky recreational vehicles to battered minibikes, all adorned with For Sale signs listing the vehicle's features and the owner's phone number. The fair attracts some 1,600 shoppers a day, and sees more than 300 vehicles turn over every month.
More, who expects Autofair's revenue to top $750,000 in 1984, thinks the auto flea market idea can spread. "People like sales that are simple, direct, and quick," he says. There is plenty of potential. About 25 million used cars were sold last year in the United States, compared with about 9.2 million new ones, and nearly half of those used-car sales were private transactions.
The concept, while new to the United States, is already in practice in other countries. A native of Israel, More first got the idea from seeing a similar auto fair in Tel Aviv. Now, thanks to him, Texans can haggle over car prices, Middle Eastern style.