Shift ($PRIVATE:SHIFTTECH) is the latest used auto retailer to take its online operations to public markets, according to a Bloomberg report late Friday, June 19. Investors are bidding up used auto disruptor stocks, which could be tied to the fact that prices, according to Barron's, for used cars keep going higher in a pandemic where people are rightly scared to take mass transit and planes. 

But a hard look at the alternative data shows it getting lapped by Vroom, the marketplace disruptor that launched a successful offering earlier in the months. That's not to say that Shift can't get into high gear, but it is punching up against a class of big public companies, now. 

Somewhat surprisingly, Shift headcount was declining prior to the pandemic, although it has bounced back a little bit in recent weeks. Year-over-year, headcount at Shift is down about 9%, and its overall staffing also puts it at a size disadvantage against the bigger players in the space. 

Shift investors include Lithia Motors, Goldman Sachs Investment Management, Highland Capital, and BMW's investing division, iVentures.  

Any brand that can boost consumer engagement in the midst of a pandemic has a little bit less to worry about - and that appears to be the case for Shift, which has seen engagement shoot up in recent weeks, likely as more consumers decided it was time to get back out on the road. 

Plenty of big auto retailers' websites saw a big dip in listings during the pandemic. Shift's auto inventory had already taken a hit, but was starting to rebound as the pandemic worsened in the US, which was followed by a precipitous drop in cars. Now, Shift is getting more sales potentially onto its platform, as the US is reportedly seeing a rise in used auto prices. 

Now Shift may be lagging behind Vroom, the latest online and app-based retailer of used autos to hit public markets - but it's getting absolutely dominated by larger companies with a longer history on public markets, like CarMax and Carvana. 

One notable difference between Shift and others, according to a Techcrunch report, is that it will allow for sales of older cars and some with more miles on them, than other platforms.  

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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