Detroit to auction surplus vehicles for cash

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city will kick off internationally marketed auctions next month to sell off surplus vehicles and equipment for cash to bolster its departments and pay down debt.

A trolley stored at a Detroit Department of Transportation lot will be offered to the highest bidder. The city will put up numerous items for auction next month to raise cash to pay down debts. Gary Brown, the city’s chief operating officer, says it’s an effort to be more efficient.

Detroit Chief Operating Officer Gary Brown on Thursday noted the auctions will be conducted in partnership with Hilco Industrial and Miedema Auctioneering and Appraisals. The city finalized a contract with Farmington Hills-based Hilco this summer that nets Detroit an upfront payment of $5 million for its surplus property.

The auctions will feature more than 450 vehicles being stored at the former Herman Kiefer Health Complex, including public lighting and public works trucks, buses and public safety vehicles, and an antique trolley. Other items include machinery and shop service equipment that's no longer in use.

The first auction will be held via webcast at 10 a.m. Nov. 5 on the 13th floor at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. A second will be offered online through Nov. 13.

Brown said the auctions will mark the first of several planned for the city. Selling off the excess equipment and vehicles allows for more effective operations, he added.

"It's about being leaner, more efficient and having only the equipment on hand that's absolutely essential to the operation," Brown said. "We are being better stewards of the city's assets.

"It's a part of the restructuring and reinvestment portion of the bankruptcy," he added. "It's finding dollars to reinvest in the city of Detroit."

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr testified in Detroit's bankruptcy trial this week of the anticipated surplus property auctions as well as Detroit's plans to sell old copper wire.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes said he will decide by the end of the week of Nov. 3 whether he will confirm the city's plan to shed $7 billion in debt and invest $1.7 billion into restructuring initiatives.

Brown said the auction effort is about asset management. "We're going through all of our warehouses in every nook and cranny and finding equipment that is no longer needed ...," he said.

"Most of the money will go back to the department that donated it for auction," Brown added, adding funding would be used toward more efficient vehicles and equipment.

Robert Levy, a managing partner for Hilco, said Thursday that the sale is unusually large and has garnered wide interest.

"The city has taken a whole new fiscally responsible approach to monitoring their assets and understanding the value of their assets," he said.

Registration for both auctions will be available on-site or online through or