December 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
Technology can improve a dealer’s business in many ways. One technological tool that has been helping improve collections for some time is the starter interrupt device. Location devices, another technological tool, help dealers find their vehicles. Enfotrace combines both of these technologies in its Stealth product lineup. To locate vehicles, the devices harness the technology of the global positioning system (GPS) of 24 satellites. The second technology the devices employ is the wireless cellular network, which enables the devices to send and receive commands and data.
The GPS location, combined with mapping that provides the exact latitude and longitude of the vehicle, allows the dealer to pinpoint the exact location of the vehicle at any time. Information can immediately be sent to the dealer either via e-mail or a SMS text to a cell phone. Once the dealer locates a vehicle, he or she can request that the starter on the vehicle be disabled. If the vehicle is on or being driven when the dealer makes such a request, as soon as the key is taken out of the ignition, the starter will be disabled.
While the starter interrupt feature of the Stealth devices is extremely helpful, access to the cellular network offers other valuable features. Reggie Ponsford, vice president of Enfotrace, said many dealers utilize geo-fencing, an application that alerts the dealer if a vehicle enters or exits a defined area. If a dealer determines a vehicle is in a place where it cannot be repossessed – in a garage, for example – it would not be wise to just shut the vehicle off. In this situation, geo-fencing is extremely useful because with geo-fencing, the dealer can be alerted as soon as that vehicle exits the garage.
Another strategy Ponsford said dealers have used with the geo-fencing application is defining where tow lots are in their local area, so if a delinquent customer drives onto a marked tow lot, the dealer is notified immediately. Then the car can be repossessed while it’s on the actual lot, saving the dealer towing expenses.
With some devices, updating is quite a process, requiring the devices be taken out of the vehicles, manually updated and reinstalled in the vehicle. Enfotrace’s Stealth devices are regularly updated without hassle and at no cost to the dealer. Ponsford said, “We do what’s called over-the-airway application and what that means is we’re continually upgrading the programming on our units … automatically over the airway weekly, if not daily.” Valuable applications like geo-fencing are added by sending data to the Stealth devices through the wireless cellular network.
The Stealth product lineup lives up to its name, as it is thin enough to rest undetected between the dash skin and the
dash. The Stealth1, which has been in production for 18 months, is about the size of a credit card, and the newly-released Stealth2 is even smaller—around 50 percent smaller, in fact.
In addition to their small size, both of the Stealth devices have internal antennas. Ponsford said Enfotrace actually introduced built-in antennas to the industry. As opposed to devices with external antennas (some of which require obtrusive device-to-antenna wiring that runs across the dashboard), “the theory behind [the Stealth] is, it enables the end-user to be able to install the device up under that dash skin where no one can really see it,” he said.
There are more dealers than ever entering the finance market, putting up their own capital to keep customers. This trend started in mid-summer as the subprime credit market tightened tremendously. Because it is their own capital, dealers want every advantage to ensure payment, and if they can’t ensure payment, they want to ensure they can quickly locate their vehicle. The devices also allow collection managers to manage more accounts, thereby effectively cutting down on some of the personnel expense necessary to monitor and collect delinquent accounts.
The latest buzz on repossessions is about the reconditioning cost. If a dealer can recover a vehicle in a day rather than two weeks, the condition of the vehicle is 100 percent better, which translates to lower reconditioning cost.
Enfotrace, based in Irvine, Calif., works with more than 2,500 clients, has been serving the automotive industry for more than seven years and has been in business for about 18 years. For more information, call 800.815.3639 or visit www.Enfotrace.com.
Special Finance Insider Vol. 2, Issue 6