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The City Journals

South Salt Lake passes vote to re-open auto auction lot despite eyesore concerns

Aug 31, 2017 09:06AM ● By Jana Klopsch

Councilman Mark Kindred said he thinks that opening another auto auction lot on State Street will not help with the beautification of the street. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Jessica Parcell |

American Title Loans had been operating their auto auction lots for about three years when South Salt Lake put a halt to their ability to auction off their own cars.

Ken Noble, Repo and Auction manager of American Title Loans, said it wasn’t anything the company had knowingly been doing wrong.

“The owner of the company somehow naively assumed that he could use the business license that he already had for his title loan stores — which he has seven of them here in Utah — and be able to run that auction out there,” Noble said.

The title loan business gives out short-term loans to persons with bad credit and sometimes ends up repossessing the vehicles of the families and individuals that are not able to keep up with their payments. Noble said they don’t want to take the families’ cars, but the nature of the business requires them to do so.

Noble said that the number of repossessed cars that come in every month adds up to about 80, and with their operation shut down, he needed to find other places to send and sell them through. 

Noble found an auction company in North Salt Lake that would allow him to have his repo drivers take them straight to the lot, and then he would have to come in every morning and inventory the cars before they could be put in the system and sold off. However, this was causing them to lose significant amounts of cash.

“[We were] losing an extreme amount of money over the last few months doing that,” Noble said. “We estimate that we were probably losing $25,000 to $30,000 a month.”

The auto auctions attracted many people, both those looking to buy and sell for parts and those that were looking for a good car outside of a dealership. Typically, he said, he would see around 70 people at each auction. Including both higher-end and economy cars, Noble said that 27 of their cars would sell per auction.

On one hand, opening the auction lot would help business in South Salt Lake. On the other hand was the issue of beautifying State Street.

Mark Kindred, a South Salt Lake councilman, said he voted against the ordinance because he thinks there is an excessive number of used car dealerships in Utah; and for him, he didn’t think the opening of another auto auction in this area would benefit the city in the long run.

“If we’re trying to beautify State Street, and I think we are long-term, that to me doesn’t signify beautification,” Kindred said. “When we have 50 used car dealerships in our city, which is an astounding number, and only three—depending on how you count it, Tesla—new car dealerships, to me that’s just out of whack.”

Councilman Shane Siwik, who voted to pass the ordinance, said that there isn’t much of a difference when looking at auction lots and used car dealerships. If the selling of cars is allowed then there isn’t really a reason to prohibit it.

“Cars are a great generator of sales tax for the city,” Siwik said, “I think if the land use allows for a car dealership then the land use allows for a car dealership.”

Noble had been sending multiple bond requests to the city that had been repeatedly shut down. It wasn’t until now that the vote was finally approved, passing with a vote of 4-3 in the city council. Ultimately, Noble said he hopes that his business can get back up and running the way it had before.