In Dusseldorf authorities auction vehicles from their own inventory – and vehicles of criminals.
The ambulance has its best days. The hood is crushed, the triggered airbags testify to a hard impact. Inside, it smells of grease and mold, on the seats are gummy bears and empty fast food cartons. A case for the scrap press? No. Curious sneak the prospective customers for the battered vehicle. Looking through the window. Check the tires. Wobbling on the squeaky doors.
The ambulance vehicle, a VW LT 35, stands in the yard of the regional finance office North Rhine-Westphalia in Dusseldorf. It's one of 149 cars to be auctioned this morning. Dozens of Ford Focus are among them, many station wagons and even more vans. Also fire trucks, prisoner buses and a motorcycle (built in 1952) are in the unusual collection, the North Rhine-Westphalia issues. These are either confiscated cars or official service vehicles sorted out by the authorities.
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Since the vehicles come from all provincial authorities, a lot comes together. After all, there are currently about 20 000 vehicles owned by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, more than half of them in the police. Because replenishment of old metal never stops, the regional finance office invites you to the auction every first Wednesday of the month. The offer is well received: In the early morning, interested parties gather in front of the warehouse; some are moving with folding chairs, auction catalog and towing trailers.
The audience is as different as the cars that stand in the hall: In the auction room, headscarves meet combat boots, grandmothers and grandchildren meet professional dealers. Arabic voices mingle with Rhenish chants. Only the auctioneer is hard to understand. He sits on a pedestal and reads the auction conditions – state-correct, but a little quiet. In general Gebrabbel penetrates hardly anything, possibly single words: "auction", "minimum bid", "towed away".
Then it gets serious. And still. "800 euros, 1000 euros, 9000 euros …". What exactly is auctioned, know only those who have memorized the numbers of the objects. The procedure has something sober: screams of joy are not heard, but also no ranting about missed opportunities. Instead, the new owners get a sausage at the local snack. Thereafter, the auctioned goods will be paid at the bulletproof glass counter.
"At the end of the day the hall is always empty"
The man who holds the strings together in the warehouse is Herbert Bolten. The car expert has been watching over the vehicles that are coming under pressure in Düsseldorf every month for 14 years. "There are no usellers", assures Bolten. "At the end of the day, the hall is always empty."
About 1800 vehicles auctioned off the land each year. On average, they have a mileage of more than 100,000 kilometers, although in individual cases there can be large deviations upwards or downwards. The revenues of the state treasury are denied by the regional finance office – for security reasons. "We do not want to arouse desires," it says from the authority. After all, the vehicles would always be paid in cash.